Is the NCAA Singling out LeBron James’ Agent Rich Paul With its new Rules?

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The NCAA seemed to target LeBron James' (right) business partner Rich Paul (left) with new agent rules it wanted to implement.

Over the last decade and more, LeBron James and Rich Paul have become the most powerful one-two tandem in the NBA. James is a global icon, and with his longtime friend Paul as his agent, he created Klutch Sports. Some of the game’s biggest stars are under the Klutch Sports umbrella due to Paul’s ability to negotiate contracts for players. His skill set brought in a wave of NBA agents that some believe aren’t qualified to do the job.

The NCAA instituted a rule that any agent looking to sign a college athlete must have a bachelor’s degree as a minimum requirement. James and Paul immediately believed he was being targeted for his influence on the game today. Let’s go over the NCAA agent rules, and determine if Paul is really being targeted.

The Rich Paul rule?

The first wave of new rules in required any agent looking to become certified must have a four-year bachelor’s degree from an accredited university. That quickly drew the ire of Paul and the game’s biggest stars. Paul has negotiated some of the largest contracts in NBA history and felt that having a four-year degree won’t necessarily make an agent good at his job.

In The Athletic, Rich Paul wrote, “The harmful consequences of this decision will ricochet onto others who are trying to break in. NCAA executives are once again preventing young people from less prestigious backgrounds, and often people of color, from working in the system they continue to control. In this case, the people being locked out are kids who aspire to be an agent and work in the NBA and do not have the resources, opportunity, or desire to get a four-year degree … Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?”

It was a damning statement against the NCAA, and they had to act quickly.

Players voiced their concerns on social media, calling the new rules racist and targeting prospective minority agents. That forced the NCAA to make changes to the rules while hoping to save face with the public.

Amended rules

It took only six hours after Paul’s opinion piece on The Athletic before changes happened. The first big change in rules was the removal of needing a four-year college degree from a university. The NCAA made it an optional requirement, allowing the prospective agent to either have a four-year degree or have three years of good standing with the NBA Players Association.

That was something that even Paul could get behind: “I actually support requiring three years of experience before representing a kid testing the market. I can even get behind passing a test.”

Is the rule targeting minorities?

The NCAA seemed to target LeBron James' business partner Rich Paul (middle) with new agent rules it wanted to implement.
The NCAA seemed to target LeBron James’ business partner Rich Paul (middle) with new agent rules it wanted to implement. | Allen Berezovsky/Getty Images

We disagree with Rich Paul and LeBron’s statements about the initial set of rules being racist. We think the NCAA just wanted a process for student-athletes to sign an agent for that won’t turn into the numerous cases where agents take advantage of players who aren’t as knowledgeable about contracts and endorsement deals.

With anything the NCAA does we will have to wait and see how it’s going to impact the next crop of agents. If we don’t see more minority agents becoming certified over the next couple of seasons, then you can make a case for Paul and James’ initial comments.

However, if the numbers stay the same or even increase, then the NCAA can point to the rule as being excellent for all college football and basketball players heading into their respective pro leagues.

How do you feel about the new agent requirements?

Do you think this set of new requirements created by the NCAA is singling out Rich Paul? We believe the amended changes will only make things better for student-athletes. As it stands now, Paul can still do business with NCAA athletes heading for the NBA.