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Florida Athlete Agent Registration Law

by Gregory J. Tarone on Jan. 30, 2014

Industry Specialties Entertainment 

Summary: The Florida Legislature has enacted an athlete agent law that has been effective since October 1, 1988, requiring all agents who enter into contracts with student athletes attending Florida colleges or universities to register with the Florida Department of Professional Regulation.

The Florida Legislature has enacted an athlete agent law that has been effective since October 1, 1988, requiring all agents who enter into contracts with student athletes attending Florida colleges or universities to register with the Florida Department of Professional Regulation.

    Section 498.452 (2), Florida Statutes ( hereinafter the “Statute”), defines “athlete agent” as “a person who, directly or indirectly recruits or solicits a student athlete to enter into an agent contract to who, for a fee, procures, offers, promises, or attempts to obtain employment for a student athlete with a professional sports team or as a professional athlete.”  This definition effectively means that anybody who procures any form of compensation for the student athlete must register before entry into a contract: moreover, it also clearly requires registration to solicit the athlete when the intent is to have the athlete enter into a contract while they have eligibility remaining, whether the contract is for agent representation or compensation. It claims jurisdiction over anyone doing business with a Florida student athlete even one time from outside the state.

    IT is interesting to note that Section 468.452 (3) defines “student athlete” as “any athlete who practices in intercollegiate athletics at any college or university in this state.” The athlete does not have to be on an active roster and any institution of higher learning - - private or public as well as junior colleges -- is included.  It does not, however, include or apply to high school athletes.

The policy behind the legislation is to protect against the Institution’s violation of any membership organization’s rules, such as those of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (hereafter “NCAA”), because of the severe financial losses that can be incurred. A loss of bowl appearances and television exposure could have a substantial economic effect on a university’s entire athletic program and possible the university itself. In addition, the students loss of eligibility could mean loss of his or her grant-in-aid scholarship, and consequently, possible loss of chance to earn a degree.  The State also aims to protect against incompetent or dishonest agents.  In the 1989 Session of the Florida Legislature, a bill was passed that now provides for a civil action by a college or university for actual damages, costs, and attorney’s fees when an NCAA rule is internationally violated by an individual or entity, again extending protection only to a collegiate athletics.  

Agents must register with the Department of Professional Regulation, 130 North Monroe Street, Tallahassee, Florida 32399-0750 by completion of a simple form and payment of $50.00 fee that covers a period of up to 2 years.  Failure to register while under a contract with a student athlete is a third degree felony.  Failure to register also makes any contract with the agent void and unenforceable.  However, this is not to be confused with the voluntary registration program of the NCAA or of any university or college committee, which obviously have no jurisdiction to impose criminal penalties.

    It is important to note that a player and agent who comply with the Statute could make a costly mistake if the sport in which the athlete is becoming professional is not clearly specified in their contract.  At the University of Florida, being a member of the Southeastern Conference (SEC), failure to designate the sport in such a contract would not matter because becoming a professional in one sport that the student athlete would become a professional in all sports in the SEC.  However, at such non conference institutions as Florida State University and the University of Miami, where an athlete can turn professional in one sport and still compete intercollegiate in another under NCAA rules. The NCAA might well determine that, absent a specific designation as to which sport the athlete is choosing, the effect will be the same as at an SEC member institution -- a professional in all sports. This may not, however, have any effect at all on the athlete for international competitions, since Rule 26 of the international Olympic Committee, as amended effectively for 1990, has essentially eliminated the distinction between “amateur” and “professional” leaving it up to the United States Olympic Committee’s National Governing Body for each sport to set the guidelines.  

The State of Florida is only one of at least 15 states that have enacted to regulate agents, 10 states did so in 1988 alone.  There is presently no federal regulation, but US congressman John Bryant (D-Texas) has drafted legislation to be introduced into Congress to place athlete agent registration and regulation within the jurisdiction of the Department of Commerce. Clearly, state and federal legislators are actively seeking a way to control the competency and ethics of athlete agents, particularly as a result of extensive publicity of various agents’ behavior and criminal prosecution. The hope is that some unified clearly defined regulations will emerge instead of a variety of constitutionally questionable statuses that contrast from one state to another.  There shall surely be much written about this area of law in the next several months. At least one article by J. Mark Roger of The Sports Lawyers Association comprehensively addresses the topic by a comparative study of state legislation.

    Florida’s law has one significant peculiarity. While it attempts to protect both the economic interests of the institutions of higher learning and student athletes, it fails to truly do so for the latter because it leaves the high school athlete vulnerable to the same dangers or worse. Even high schools now reap significant financial rewards from television rights, and should loss of eligibility for a student athlete occur, that could mean the loss of a grant-in-aid scholarship and the opportunity to earn a college degree.  The high school athlete is now the prey of the unscrupulous agent particularly for such sports as baseball, basketball, and football.  The mulch-billion dollar sports industry includes even high school level athletes, so they need protection, too - or, as many believe, greater protection than collegians.


References:

1. Chapter 468, Part IX, Florida Statutes, Sections 468.452 through 468.457. See also Section 240.5337, Florida Statutes, which is the counterpart of Section 468.542 that applies to student athletes. For the rules regulated by the Florida Department of Professional Regulations, see Sections 21-24.001-21-24.011, Florida Administrative Code.


2. For a thorough and comprehensive discussion of Florida’s new athlete agent law, agents and the approach to regulating agents, see Ehrhart and Rogers “Tightening of the Defense Against Offensive Sports Agents” 16 FLA.ST.U.L.REV.633 (Fall 1988).


3. See “Senate Staff Analysis and Economic impact Statement”, Florida Legislature Bill No. CS/SB 73 (April 26, 1988).


4. Id.


5. CB/1266,2nd Engrossed, 1989 Florida Legislature. The Florida Statute number was unavailable at press time


6. Rule 21-24.003 requires renewal by March 31 of each even numbered year.  The statute, having been enacted in October of an even numbered year, provides for a short initial term; however, the fee is not prorated.


7. For a discussion of the issues confronting an “amateur” in becoming a “professional”, see also Tarone, “Amateur Athletes and Eligibility” THE SPORTS, PARKS, & RECREATION LAW REPORTER 2(4) 60-62 (March 1989).


8. Rogers, “States Revamp Defense Against Agents”, 6(1) THE SPORTS LAWYER (Winter 1988-89).


9. Bryant, “Professional Sports Agency Acts of 1989”. At the time of writing this article, the bill was in the discussion draft stage, being reworked for introduction in the House of Representatives.


10. See Rogers, supra note 8, for an excellent discussion of the laws of 15 states and the citing of constitutional issues.


11. THE NEW YORK TIMES five part series on the subject of “College Pipeline, Sports in Schools” is an excellent report on the issues presented. see THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 5, 1989 Sports section as 18; March 6, 1989 at 39; March 7, 1989 at 27; March 8, 1989 at 49; March 9, 1989 at 47; see also the commentary by George Vecsey on this topic following the five-part series in THE NEW YORK TIMES, March 10, 1989 at 41


12. Tarone, supra note 7.

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