Is Roc Nation Sending The Runner Rule To Its Last Lap?

BY: Zach Holzberg

In April 2012 several amendments to the National Football League Players Association “NFLPA” Regulations Governing Contract Advisors were sent to agencies by the NFLPA.  Among these, in particular was the “runner rule” which essentially bans agencies from using people (typically high profile people) without appropriate credentials to recruit potential clients [1.Memorandum, http://www.scribd.com/doc/88972250/2012-Memo-to-Agents-Re-Amendments-to-the-Regulations (visited May 25, 2013)]  Recently, the rule has come under scrutiny after the formation of Roc Nation Sports.  Roc Nation Sports is a “full-service sports management company” formed by Jay-Z and Creative Artists Agency, a talent agency based out of Los Angeles [2. Roc Nation Launches Roc Nation Sports + Signs New York Yankees All-Star Robinson Cano, http://rocnation.com/news/single/?id=4251]  Within months of its inception Roc Nation Sports has signed talents such as Robinson Cano, Victor Cruz, and more recently Geno Smith.

However, the rule specifically prohibits the use of non-certified agents such as Jay-Z for the recruitment of players regarding contract representation.  In particular, Roc Nation Sports signing of Geno Smith has raised some concerns in the industry as to whether this newly formed entity is exploiting a loophole in the rule.  Geno Smith was ‘represented’ by a lawyer, Kimberly Miale, during his contract representation meetings; however, news has surfaced that Jay-Z was in the room as well and may have played some sort of recruitment role beyond the scope of the NFLPA Regulations [3. http://sports.yahoo.com/blogs/nfl-shutdown-corner/geno-smith-signing-jay-z-roc-nation-agency-133525207.html.]  As a result, Roc Nation’s signing of Geno Smith is currently under investigation by the NFLPA.

Furthermore, many thought the signing of Victor Cruz was tainted by the presence of Jay-Z, however the NFLPA allowed the transaction on the basis that Cruz had a pre-existing friendship with Jay-Z [4. http://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/nfl/2013/05/24/nfl-players-association-roc-nation-jay-z-tom-condon-kimberly-miale-geno-smith/2359423/.]  It would be interesting to see the results of the NFLPA’s investigation and whether they will take the signing of these other players into consideration as well.

Going forward, the NFLPA will likely amend the Runner Rule to keep up with these newly formed agencies [5.http://www.sportsagentblog.com/2013/05/30/forget-about-jay-z-should-nflpa-scrap-ridiculous-runner-rule/.]  Jay-Z seems to be targeting players that are highly marketable and it will be interesting to see whether the recent investigations will affect any of these opportunities.

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