Friday, November 2, 2012

NASAAR Recap of ULC Stakeholder Meeting on UAAA Revisions

On November 1st, the Uniform Laws Commission held its first stakeholders meeting to discuss potential revisions to the Uniform Athlete Agents Act (UAAA). The UAAA is the predominantly law regulating athlete agent activity in 43 states that have adopted a version of the law.

In addition to members of the committee themselves who include lawyers, judges, and academics, the meeting included a number of stakeholders in the process including the NCAA, various state regulators, representatives from the athletic departments from North Carolina and USC (two schools with high profile recent scandals involving agents), representatives from the Football Coaches Association and the National Association of Basketball Coaches, several academics and a representative from the Sports Lawyers Association. The NFLPA was the only professional players union in attendance. From an agency perspective, the general counsels from Athletes First and Creative Artists Agency (CAA) and NFL agent Tony Agnone were present in addition to Andrew Bondarowicz from NASAAR.

The committee outlined several key questions for discussion. The overarching question was whether the UAAA was in need of revision. The response was a resoundingly affirmative as all stakeholders realize that the laws have been largely ineffective. Other questions discussed included the effectiveness of registration requirements, penalties, expansion of the definition of “athlete agent,” use of surety bond requirements, national registration, requirements to notify schools before speaking to athletes and other pertinent topics.

NASAAR was a vocal participant at the meeting. With registration not likely to go away, NASAAR was very vocal on the need for a national agent registry instead of the patchwork of state regulations now in existence and offered to serve as the administrator of such a system similar to how FINRA regulates securities dealers. This system would also allow it to be a clearinghouse for schools, the NCAA, regulators, players associations and other interested parties for information on registrations, enforcement actions, etc. The concept of a national registration was something that generally had a great deal of support, the mechanics is something that will require much more discussion.
It is safe to say that the definition of “athlete agent” will continue to expand to include financial advisors, brand managers, trainers and others in a more expansive and “functional” definition that would encompass all individuals seeking to represent athletes’ interests for profit, although the exact wording will be carefully crafted to not make it unwieldy. The notion of requiring surety bonds nationally did not have much traction or support from anyone.

Two other controversial topics introduced by NASAAR raised some eyebrows. The first would seek to establish penalties against student-athletes for impacts to the schools and a cause of action akin to bribery. With student-athletes knowing that they can shake down agents for benefits without any recourse, it has made it almost inevitable that the practice will continue as you will almost always find someone, an agent or otherwise, who will be willing to fill the void. The second topic was to force greater responsibility and liability on the players associations for enforcement. Certified contract advisors are authorized by the unions to act on their behalf yet the unions are not held responsible for any infractions or failures on their part. These two notions were about accountability for all parties in the process, not just the agents, and as expected, they received some opposition.

It was very clear that NASAAR's role in the process was very important. Without it, there was a definitive void in the opinions and realities of the majority of the agents operating today. With this initial discussion completed, NASAAR will continue to craft a more definitive legislative agenda to ensure that the solutions take into account the agents perspectives and goals. Please feel free to email me with any questions, concerns or feedback.