A successful black man having to do twice as much: The “Rich Paul Rule”

Starting in 2018, NBA hopeful college basketball players could hire an agent but keep their NCAA eligibility if they desired to stay in school. That rule stated that all family members and NBA Players’ Association-certified agents were allowed to be agents until Aug. 1, 2020. Well, it’s August 7, 2020, and the new regulations have surfaced…and targeted Lebron James’ agent Rich Paul as well as stiffened up their stance on family members representing players.

Two of the new rules aren’t bad or unreasonable:

  1. NBPA certification for three years.
  2. A written exam.

The third, however, is the one that disrupts and almost specifically targets Paul: Each agent must have a bachelor’s degree. Paul doesn’t have his bachelor’s degree because he started representing Lebron James while he was still in college. Paul attended Cleveland State and Akron, up until the time he got on Lebron’s payroll.

The NCAA can’t hide behind the notion that they’re making this rule to improve the quality of their sports agents. It’s not like there’s something specific that agents need that only a bachelor’s degree would facilitate. The NCAA will accept any bachelor’s degree, so this is an obvious attempt at gatekeeping Paul and future agents like him.

James has been retweeting players and adding critiques of his own over the last day.

This is a way for the NCAA to assert themselves to Paul and the various family members that choose to take this route. They might be good enough for the NBA, but not for the NCAA. You need to be more educationally qualified to represent NBA hopefuls than you do actual NBA players.

Paul has an uncanny ability to successfully go against the grain and encourage his players to control the market. Paul is the leading man of this ‘player control’ era in the NBA. He held the New Orleans Pelicans and Los Angeles Lakers hostage with Anthony Davis. The NCAA wants to make sure that Paul doesn’t bring that same energy into their realm, where the opportunity for that is primed and ready.

Paul has gotten into the NCAA already, and it has worked thus far. His client Darius Bazley overlooked college completely to take on a million-dollar internship with New Balance and was drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder. Not represented by Paul, but other players like New York Knicks center Mitchell Robinson skipped the NCAA to workout and RJ Hampton has decided to play in New Zealand, thus replacing playing in the ACC. Bazley’s approach was by far the most intriguing alternative path, led by Paul, and future high school and college stars are taking note.

The NCAA doesn’t want to live with that, and since they’ve been resisting the solution to this by paying their athletes or at least letting their them profit off their image, this was their solution.

Half of this is a race thing. Paul is a highly successful sports agent that has run circles around the majority of his white colleagues. But the other side of this is another example of how power and money-hungry the NCAA is. So in this case, they don’t want a 37-year old black man with no college degree to overshadow the rest of the group, and more importantly, lose them money.

The NCAA isn’t taking these drastic measures so it can protect its players. If they were, they’d put more specifications on what type of bachelor’s degrees an agent needs to acquire. It would also ensure that players could pay for food outside of the school cafeteria. This is just an attempt for the NCAA to protect its money and power and trying to diminish the threat of any individual that might come between that.

The NCAA wants its players to stay in school and not advance in their careers until they’ve milked out all of their eligibility. It doesn’t want players to make money for their hard work but wants to make money off the players. There are numerous examples of this phobia the NCAA has with anyone ‘getting past their people,’ in any way.

Just like in life, this young, talented black man will have to cross three times the hurdles of his colleagues to keep his dominant run going.

A. Suave Francisco

Founder & Editor-in-Chief. National Association of Black Journalists. University of Central Oklahoma.

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