Sports Law

Looking At Appealing Denial Of NFLPA Contract Advisor Certification

The mandatory seminar and exam for those attempting to fulfill their childhood dreams of becoming a National Football League Players’ Association (NFLPA) Contract Advisor – more commonly known as an NFL player agent – was held on July 24-25. Now, roughly eight weeks later, many hopefuls are beginning to learn whether or not they achieved what they aspire to be — representatives of NFL players. For most, the dream of becoming the next super-agent has become closer to a reality. Yet, for the unfortunate few, they will have to wait for the next opportunity to sit for the exam in order to successfully accomplish their goal the second time around.

However, that next opportunity may not be for some time – pursuant to the NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisors (“NFLPA Regulations”), an applicant who has failed the written examination on two successive occasions is barred from re-applying for certification and re-taking the exam for a period of at least five years[1]. This poses a great concern, especially for those applicants with clients waiting in the wings and eagerly awaiting representation. As a result, many turn to the appeals process in hopes of getting their denial overturned.

Section 2(D) of the NFLPA Regulations states the following: “In the event an Application for Certification is denied pursuant to this Section, the applicant shall be notified in writing (by confirmed facsimile or overnight delivery) of the reasons for the denial.” Section 2(C) lists the following as a non-exhaustive list of reasons for denying certification:

  1. The applicant made a false or misleading statement of a material nature in his or her application;
  1. The applicant misappropriated funds, or engaged in other specific acts – fraud, embezzlement, etc. – that would render him or her unfit to serve in a fiduciary capacity;
  1. The applicant engaged in other certain conduct that significantly impacts adversely on his or her credibility, integrity or competence to serve in a fiduciary capacity;
  1. The applicant is unwilling to swear or affirm that he or she will comply with the NFLPA Regulations or the fee structure contained within the Standard Representation Agreement incorporated into the NFLPA Regulations;
  1. The applicant has been denied certification by another professional sports players association, such as the National Basketball Players’ Association or the Major League Baseball Players’ Association;
  1. The applicant directly or indirectly solicited or recruited a player for representation during the probation period between filing his or her application for certification and actually receiving certification by the NFLPA;
  1. The applicant did not receive a degree from an accredited four year college/university and a post-graduate degree – i.e. a Law or Masters degree – from an accredited college/university[2]; or
  1. The applicant failed to fully and properly complete his or her application for certification.

Shall a rejected applicant decide that appealing the NFLPA’s decision is his or her only means of recourse, the applicant must file a written notice of appeal within thirty days of receiving the notice denying certification. The appeal is resolved in accordance with the NFLPA’s arbitration procedures[3], and the standard of review for the arbitrator is whether there was a reasonable basis for the NFLPA to deny the application.

It is important to note that failing to pass the written examination is not listed as a ground for denying an application under Section 2 of the NFLPA Regulations. It could be argued that failure to fully complete an application encompasses the failure of the exam, and thus should be subject for review; however, successful completion of the written exam is an express requirement to becoming a NFLPA Contract Adviser.  As a result, it is undeniable that failure to pass the exam constitutes a reasonable basis to deny an application for certification.

The appellate process is designed more for instances in which an applicant feels he or she has been rejected for a reason that the NFLPA has not adequately explained, or improperly applies. Heitner Legal has successfully represented an individual on such a basis. However, passing the written exam is essential to certification; unfortunately, failure to do so is not typically subject to appeal.

[1] See NFLPA Regulations Governing Contract Advisers § 2(A)

[2] In some circumstances, the NFLPA will grant an exception to this requirement for applicants who have at least seven years of sufficient negotiating experience. See id.

[3] The NFLPA Regulations arbitration procedures are set forth in Sections 5(E) – 5(H).