LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (Legal Newsline) - Arkansas Attorney General Dustin McDaniel announced on Thursday that a piece of his legislative agenda this year will be a bill that toughens penalties on unscrupulous sports agents.
The bill would also affect others that violate NCAA rules regarding payments to student-athletes. It would make it a Class D felony for agents or their representatives to induce student-athletes to sign a contract by furnishing goods or services of value.
The bill, known as "The Athlete Agent Reform Act of 2011" would also make it illegal for parents or others to seek the same illegal financial benefits in exchange for the promise of a student-athlete's commitment to a college or university athletic program.
"Sports agents need to know that we in Arkansas will not tolerate them coming into our state, breaking the law, and jeopardizing the future of our student-athletes," McDaniel said in a statement.
"Further, we're going to make sure that our kids aren't used as pawns by their parents or others who think they can get away with selling their services to the highest bidder."
McDaniel said the NCAA punishes schools and student-athletes who don't play by the rules, but often those who are most responsible for the violations may act without fear of consequences.
The actions of a rogue sports agent could have lasting economic repercussions as well, the attorney general said.
McDaniel said not only would a ban from postseason play affect university athletic revenues, the ramifications of NCAA sanctions could harm Arkansas small businesses that rely on commerce with sports fans.
"NCAA penalties could cost the hotel owner in Fayetteville or the convenience store owner in Jonesboro, all because of the actions of some unethical sports agent from outside the state," McDaniel said.
"We support this legislation because we want our local economies to thrive and we want our student-athletes and our universities to be protected. It just makes for a better experience all around when everybody plays by the rules."
The bill has the support of several of the state's colleges and universities. The legislation, the Attorney General's Office points out, gives the schools another means to help prevent acts that would be damaging to their athletic programs and to the student-athletes that participate in the programs.
Current state law, McDaniel's office said, only allows for a misdemeanor charge to use payments or misrepresentation in contract negotiations. The bill would make such actions felonies, and also increase the potential civil liability.
Possible civil penalties for each offense would increase from $50,000 to $250,000.
In addition, there is no state law that specifically bans parents or third-parties from soliciting payments as inducements for high school athletes to sign with NCAA programs. The bill would prohibit those acts.
Rep.-elect David Sanders, R-Little Rock, is the lead sponsor of the bill.
The state's 88th General Assembly convenes Monday.
From Legal Newsline: Reach Jessica Karmasek by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.