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NFLPA will examine Roc Nation’s recruitment of Geno Smith


Publicly, the NFLPA has been mum on the manner in which the sports agency owned by Jay-Z recruited Jets quarterback Geno Smith. Privately, the NFLPA will say just enough to spark action.

According to Albert Breer of NFL Network, the union plans to send a letter to agent Kim Miale, the certified agent who works for Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and who represents Smith. The NFLPA wants to know whether and to what extent Jay-Z was involved in recruiting Smith to hire Miale.

Under a rule passed by the NFLPA in 2012, only NFLPA-certified agents may be involved in recruiting clients. Thus, if Jay-Z engaged in any recruitment of Smith to hire Miale, Miale has a problem.

Complicating matters are comments from Smith’s advisor, John Thornton, to CBS and a photo of Jay-Z and a photo that appeared in social media of Smith with Jay-Z, before Smith hired Miale.

Said Thornton, who later claimed that he was misquoted: ”It really all came down to who he was most comfortable with. I was in those meetings and Jay-Z connected with him on many levels.”

In our view, information sought by the NFLPA could include the full list of Roc Nation employees who met with or talked to Smith, the circumstances and timeline surrounding Miale’s arrival at Roc Nation, whether Smith actually met Miale at any point before signing the Standard Representation Agreement, the number of times Smith and Miale communicated during the recruitment process, the number of times Miale communicated with Thornton and other Smith advisors, the number of times Smith and Jay-Z met and communicated during the recruitment process, and the number of times Jay-Z communicated with Thornton and other Smith advisors.

Phone records, emails, and other documents could be sought to confirm the things that potential witnesses may say, given the strong incentive to conceal any evidence of recruiting by Jay-Z. Interviews could be conducted of Smith, Miale, Thornton, Jay-Z, and others with knowledge of the situation.

The biggest problem for the NFLPA could come from its lack of jurisdiction over Jay-Z. While the union can take action against Miale, the NFLPA can do nothing to Jay-Z or anyone else who doesn’t fall under the union’s regulatory umbrella. Indeed, the NFLPA lacks the power to compel Jay-Z or anyone else not certified by the NFLPA to cooperate.

Thus, the problem could repeat itself, with the NFLPA suspending Miale and Jay-Z then hiring another certified agent. And so on. While we’re not advocating this specific solution, the only way the NFLPA could end the cycle (if Jay-Z intends to be involved in recruiting clients and if he can’t or won’t obtain NFLPA certification) would be to issue a blanket statement that any agent who associates with Jay-Z automatically would be subject to discipline.

The union is a long way from that point. But the decision to look into the Miale-Smith arrangement represents much more than some agents thought the NFLPA would do. Those agents and plenty of others will be keenly interested in how the inquiry proceeds, the information it uncovers, and the manner in which the situation is resolved.