To say that successful NFL agents are like members of a fraternity may not do enough to describe how exclusive the group is. That’s why I’m not shocked that a few of them are raising their objections to Jay-Z’s new arrangement with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) according to Darren Heitner of Forbes.com (via ProFootballTalk).
In order to become an NFL agent, you must first get certified by the NFL Players Association (NFLPA). The certification process involves paying a non-refundable fee (over $1,000), submitting to a background check and sitting for an NFLPA administered exam that test your knowledge of the NFL’s Collective Bargaining Agreement and NFL contracts.
Like other professional licensing exams, the NFLPA’s Contract Advisor exam is only offered annually in July, and there is a limited window to pay the fee and submit an application to sit for the test (usually January 1- January 31).
In addition, the NFLPA requires that all applicants have a postgraduate degree or at least seven years of substantial negotiating experience before they are approved to take the exam.
Last year, in an effort to police the problem with “runners” (i.e. people who recruit players for agents), the NFLPA imposed a rule that said only NFLPA certified agents could be involved in the recruitment of players. Therefore, anyone recruiting a player for NFL contract representation by an agent or agency now has to go through the process described above.
CAA probably won’t be using Jay-Z to negotiate player contracts because frankly they don’t need him to since Tom Condon, Ben Dogra and Jimmy Sexton are like the LeBron, D-Wade and Bosh of the NFL agents.
However, Jay-z still may have to go through the process of getting certified by the NFLPA if he wants to be a rainmaker for CAA as their lead recruiter. While Jay-z won’t have any problem with the fees, he’s already missed the application deadline for this year’s NFLPA exam. He wouldn’t be able to sit for the exam until July 2014 (If rival agents are complaining now, imagine what they would do if the NFLPA allowed Jay-Z to submit his application late).
Moreover, he’s going to have to convince the NFLPA that he has the requisite negotiating experience (more specific than general business experience) so that they’re willing to waive the postgraduate degree requirement for his application.
Jay-z has already helped land Victor Cruz for CAA, but Jason Cole of Yahoo! Sports (via ProFootballTalk) says that the NFLPA is unlikely to object to that based on Cruz and Jay-Z having a prior relationship.
As Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk points out, one possible solution here is to have players sign with Jay-Z for non-NFL contract representation such as a marketing/branding deal while simultaneously having an NFLPA certified CAA rep “recruit” the same player for NFL contract representation.
There was already plenty of friction in the agent industry between smaller agencies and the huge firms like CAA. As of November 2012, 25% of the 714 NFLPA certified agents represented 78% of the 1,800 active players in the league.
Big firms like CAA were already dominating the landscape and making it difficult for independent agents to recruit and retain clients.
CAA and Jay-Z are going to have to be extremely careful as they determine the scope of their new arrangement as it pertains to NFL players if they want to avoid fees and sanctions from the NFLPA, because industry eyes will definitely be on them and there will be no shortage of would-be competitors ready to serve them up to the players’ union for violations.