Tuesday, March 1, 2011

NFLPA Decertification -- Impact on Agents

With NFLPA decertification a strong possibility before the March 3rd deadline, most of our attention to the ramifications of this labor impasse has been directed towards owners and players. However, there is another segment of union representatives who also will be affected—agents. Under the current (but not for long) CBA, the NFLPA is recognized as “the sole and exclusive bargaining representative of present and future employees players in the NFL.” Thus, while unions are vested with the legal right to negotiate on behalf of their members, the NFLPA—along with the NBPA, MLBPA, and NHLPA—grant those rights to individual agents.

The NFLPA has developed regulations that govern all contract advisors which include certification, conduct, agreements between advisors and players, and discipline and oversight among others. If the NFLPA decertifies, agents will no longer be legally bound to a union because there will be no union. While it is likely that the agents will be asked to “voluntarily” register and comply with NFLPA guidelines there is no legal requirement that they do so.

What does this mean? To start, the NFLPA’s “Junior Rule” would no longer be in effect. The “Junior Rule”—found in Section 3 B (30) (a) of the NFLPA’s Regulations governing contract advisors—prohibits contact with a college player until:
“after a prospective player’s last regular season college or conference championship game (excluding any post-season bowl game) or December 1, whichever is later, of the college football season immediately prior to the year in which such prospective player would be eligible to apply for the NFL Draft.”
Thus, while the NCAA does not make such contact illegal, agents are not allowed to contact freshman, sophomores, or juniors under NFLPA guidelines. Without these regulations it is entirely likely that we will see agents reaching out to those highly desirable underclassmen if decertification comes to pass. Furthermore, it is also entirely possible that after the dust settles the “Junior Rule” does not return.

What other NFLPA rules relative to agents will lose their legal imprimatur? What about the requirement that a contract advisor be certified by the NFLPA? How about the cap on commissions set at 3%? What about the Standard Representation Agreement (SRA) that every player signs when they select an agent—will agents be able to sign new clients to different terms? Certainly arbitration rules that govern disputes between agents and the NFLPA will be on hold.

The bottom line is that decertification may bring changes that are ancillary to the labor impasse but meaningful in unintended ways.