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Lamar's Mystery Business Partner Ken Francis

The National Football League Players Association (NFLPA) made headlines on March 23rd when they sent out a memo to all 32 NFL teams warning them about a man by the name of Ken Francis. Teams were told that Francis was not an “NFLPA certified agent” and that he “may be contacting Clubs and attempting to persuade [them] to enter into negotiations with or concerning Lamar Jackson.” NFL Management Council Exchange Memorandum: MC23-48.

Former NFL Most Valuable Player Lamar Jackson is one of the most prolific quarterbacks in the game today––his combination of speed, quickness, and arm strength at the quarterback position is rare. Although the mobile quarterback has become more relevant in today’s game, Jackson is still widely considered the best dual-threat quarterback in the NFL.

Jackson had a knee sprain to his posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) that forced him to miss the last six games of the 2022-23 season––one of which being a wild card matchup with the Cincinnati Bengals. Without Jackson, the Ravens lost to the Bengals in dramatic fashion, but that was hardly the story following the game.

Like most public figures and celebrities, professional athletes generally retain an agent to represent them in different endorsements, marketing opportunities, and other business ventures. However, one of the most critical responsibilities of an agent is team negotiations. This aspect of being an agent is so critical that many athletes will have two agents: one to handle off-the-field negotiations and another to handle their playing contract.

The NFLPA has strict guidelines for how someone can become a certified agent. On the NFLPA’s website, they list six requirements:

  1. Non-refundable application fee of $2,500

  2. Undergraduate and postgraduate degree (Masters or Law) from an accredited college/university or at least seven years of sufficient negotiation experience

  3. Authorization to perform a background investigation

  4. Mandatory attendance at a two (2) day virtual seminar plus an additional day for administration of the exam

  5. Successful completion of a multiple-choice, proctored examination

  6. Valid email address

More details about each component can be found at:

However, this list doesn’t tell the full story. Hundreds of people are able to (1) pay the $2,500 dollars, (2) obtain an undergraduate and postgraduate degree, (3) pass a background check, (4) attend all seminars, (5) take the proctored exam, and (6) have a valid email address every year. But only an estimated 36% of test takers actually pass the exam to become an agent. The exam is an open-book, open-note exam covering the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA). Many attorneys liken studying for the exam to studying for the bar. In other words, no average Joe can just sit and pass the exam. SULC Sports Agent Bootcamp:;

It doesn’t stop there.

Even if someone is able to pass the exam, the biggest hurdle most agents face is getting clients. If a certified agent does not negotiate an NFL contract within three years of passing the exam, then they lose certification and have to start back to ground zero.

In the meantime, each certified agent has to pay $1,400/year in liability insurance to maintain certification and an additional estimated $1,000/state for any state they choose to pursue or represent clients. For example, even if an agent has zero clients, they will still need to pay $2,400 to maintain certification and legally pursue clients in their state of domicile.

Agents will oftentimes pay upfront costs for their clients as well: nutritionists, lodging, combine expenses, personal trainers, family travel, etc. By the time it is all said and done, it is not atypical for an agent to spend upwards of $30,000 before their client is even on a team. An agent generally doesn’t get paid until their player receives their first paycheck from their playing contract.

The NFLPA allows an agent to receive up to 3% of an athlete’s contract. Each agent is able to negotiate on that number, but they cannot exceed 3%. Most agents keep their average number disclosed to maintain a competitive advantage. But it can be reasonably assumed that the more recognizable and reputable an agent is, the more they will charge.

Just like any profession, there are good and bad agents. Some are more hands-on than others, and some are better at getting positive results than others. However, it is undeniable that several agents work hard to ensure their clients receive every penny possible.

For many professional athletes, paying a 3% fee to have someone handle team negotiations while they focus on playing the game is more than worth it. However, there are a few athletes that prefer to forgo professional representation. The NFLPA allows for players to represent themselves if they choose to not hire a certified agent.

Richard Sherman, Russell Okung, Edgerrin James, Bobby Wagner, and Deandre Hopkins are some of the top players who have chosen to represent themselves rather than hire an agent. Many of them have been very successful in doing so. However, the quarterback position brings with it more weight.

Since the quarterback is generally the highest-paid player on a team, they have the most to gain and lose during contract negotiations. Jackson had been seeking a long-term extension for about two years now. The Ravens placed the non-exclusive franchise tag on Jackson in early March. This means that Jackson may negotiate with other teams and actually sign an offer sheet with them if: (1) they give up two future first-round picks and (2) the Ravens do not match.

Jackson has publicly announced via Twitter that he demanded a trade from the Ravens back on March 2, however, this wasn’t made public until late March. This means that Jackson demanded a trade, and as a response, the Ravens placed the non-exclusive tag on Jackson. With the NFL Draft in a few weeks, Jackson is set to receive $32.416 million in 2023. Jackson could choose to go the Le’Veon Bell route and not play through the tag, but he would not get paid in the process.

Whether or not Ken Francis was actually calling teams on Jackson’s behalf remains a question. Jackson denies the reports. However, what is not in question is that there is no one by the name of Ken Francis certified by the NFLPA to act on his behalf.

Caleb Ortega is a 1L at South Texas College of Law. He served in the United States Marine Corps and is an active member of his school’s Sports & Entertainment Law Society. He can be reached on Twitter and LinkedIn.

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