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| Columns |

Sketchy Agents Are Out to Victimize College Football's Top Prospects

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It has begun again. Sports agents have launched attacks on African-American college football players. Now someone needs to stand up for the students. College coaches, the NCAA, and the NFL Players Association (NFPLA) certainly aren’t helping enough.

Agents will target guys who come from the inner city and children of single-parent households. Sometimes the mother, father, or grandmother is vulnerable and doesn't understand sports contracts. Agents search out relatives, family friends, and longtime coaches whom they can persuade with bags of cash. “Sign with my agency,” they say. Then, if an intelligent relative or family friend tries to stop them, they spread lies.

This even happened to me. Representatives for a major sports agency approached a player I had coached since youth football. They told the young man and his trainer that I had asked for a finder’s fee. This was a bold-faced lie. When the kid’s trainer and I confronted one of the agents involved, he recanted his statement. Agents pull this kind of unscrupulous tactic all the time.

Most players and their families don’t realize that the representation contracts they sign disproportionately favor the agent. In fact, agents try to get players to sign three contracts: a standard representation agreement, plus two others for "marketing" and "training" to prepare the player for the draft. They triple-dip and then collect kickbacks. Everyone has to pay — from the car dealers who sell the student-athletes new rides to the physical trainers who get players in tip-top shape.
And to make sure they get their hooks in, agents enforce a power-of-attorney clause that allows them to control an athlete's money. Before the player knows it, he owes the agent millions of dollars.

Only the smart players, like Cleveland Browns star Duke Johnson and Atlanta Falcons Pro Bowler Devonta Freeman, have people looking out for their best interest. Johnson and Freeman hired my wife to negotiate their contracts with their sports agents and co-represent them. White quarterbacks such as Andrew Luck and Peyton Manning have also hired lawyers. This ensures the students don't get screwed over by the agents. At the same time, they are getting two agents for the price of one.

The NCAA makes billions of dollars off these players, yet it allows agents to pursue them after the season virtually without scrutiny. The players association doesn't do anything either. Why? Many of the college coaches and NFLPA executives are ex-players. They are represented by the same agents who hope to rip off student-athletes entering the draft.

A majority of these players and their families sign contracts without an attorney. In the music industry, an artist must have legal representation or sign a waiver. The NFL should have the same requirement. African-American players need someone who’s in their corner.

Follow Luke on Twitter: @unclelukereal1.

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