Saturday, October 16, 2010

Agents recouping illegal payments?

People have been talking about this week's Sports Illustrated, featuring a confessional article by former NFL agent Josh Luchs, who admits to paying numerous college players over the years to induce them to sign with him.

One interesting tidbit: Luchs mentions that prior to 1999, the NFLPA had a rule that required a player who had taken money from an agent to repay that money; the rule was changed in 1999. Thus, Luchs says, agents formerly had "the threat of litigation" as an additional incentive for a player to retain that agent for the rookie contract; after 1999, that incentive was gone, making it more likely that an agent might pay college players and have nothing to show for it.

Here is my question (assuming Fuchs' version is accurate): On what legal theory was the agent able to sue that player? There is no contract, so it can't be breach of contract. Plus, any contract would seem to be void as against public policy (of not paying amateur athletes). Maybe unjust enrichment--the players have received (and retained) something to which they are not entitled? But does some idea of unclean hands kick in--the agent is claiming that the player was unjustly enriched by money the agent unlawfully gave him? Is the claim for a breach of NFLPA rules, made enforceable in court?

Does anyone know the details of this old regime? And does anyone know why the NFLPA changed the rule?