New NFLPA rule doesn’t make it harder, or easier, for Jay-Z to get certified

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On Wednesday, the NFLPA sent to all certified agents a memo detailing three changes to the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors.  Quoting an unnamed high-profile agent, Mike Freeman of reports that one of the changes represents “a shot across the bow of Jay-Z.”

We respectfully disagree.  Here’s why.

First, the change that applies most directly to Jay-Z, who has launched a sports agency (Roc Nation) and aspires to represent football players as an NFLPA-certified agent, simply clarifies the existing requirement that would-be agents have both undergraduate and post-graduate degrees.  The prior rule stated that the degrees must come “from an accredited college or university.”  The new rule defines the term “accredited college or university.”  Unless the NFLPA feared that Jay-Z would start his own college and give himself a degree, the rule doesn’t change anything.

Second, the new rule doesn’t alter the major exception to the postgraduate degree requirement.  If Jay-Z can demonstrate seven years of “negotiating experience,” that requirement can be satisfied.  Absent firm guidelines on what “negotiating experience” means, it can mean whatever the NFLPA wants it to mean.  Given Jay-Z’s extensive success in various forms of business, how hard would it be to persuade the NFLPA to find that he has had more than enough “negotiating experience”?  (Of course, the NFLPA would have to interpret its rules to mean that seven years of “negotiating experience” satisfies both the undergraduate and postgraduate degree requirements.)

Thus, the amendment has no impact on Jay-Z’s intent to attempt to become a certified NFLPA agent.  He still has to pass the test, and he still has to find a way around the educational requirement.

The problem for Jay-Z and CAA, the agency with which Jay-Z is working, arises from his ability to help recruit clients absent NFLPA certification.  Under a rule passed well before Jay-Z’s aspirations became clear, only certified agents can now be involved in recruiting players.  While the NFLPA gave Jay-Z and CAA a pass regarding the recruitment of Giants receiver Victor Cruz based on the pre-existing friendship between Jay-Z and Cruz, Jay-Z and CAA may be required to build a firewall between Roc Nation’s representation of football players for off-field interests and CAA’s representation of NFL players for football contracts.

Still, if every player who hires Roc Nation to handle marketing work and other non-football matters also hires CAA to negotiate their player contracts, other agents in this competitive-to-the-point-of-cutthroat industry surely will balk.

After all, if you can’t beat them, complain about them.  Incessantly.  Or something.