The Nevada Senate Education Committee sponsored Senate Bill No. 70, which was pre-filed Monday and referred to the Committee on Education with the potential to revise the state’s name, image and likeness legislation. If passed, the bill would make high-value NIL disclosures public and provide Secretary of State Francisco “Cisco” Aguilar with the bill’s enforcement capabilities.
However, the authority proposed under the bill raises questions about potential or perceived conflicts of interest. Aguilar is a founder of the Las Vegas-based company Blueprint Sports.
Blueprint Sports’ website says it “powers the industry’s leading name, image and likeness (NIL) collectives for alumni, supporters, businesses and fans of student-athletes at their favorite universities.”
Aguilar, who was elected in 2022 and who took office on Jan. 2, would have the ability to investigate potential NIL violations under the cloak of confidentiality, issue subpoenas and impose sanctions.
“It certainly doesn’t smell right,” sports and IP lawyer Darren Heitner, who helped craft Florida’s NIL legislation, said in a phone interview. “An abundance of power is passed to the Secretary of State, who — oh, by the way — runs a business that caters to collectives.”
Blueprint Sports is one of the prominent companies that provides backing to numerous collectives across the country. The agency Student Athlete NIL, which powers roughly 20 collectives, is another. Basepath is another company that provides to numerous collectives software that tracks task management and payments.
As collectives pursue sustainable fundraising and operational models, some have turned to third-party companies in hopes of improving their efficiency or scale.
A spokesperson for Blueprint Sports declined to comment.
On3 requested an interview or comment from Aguilar through an email address listed on the Secretary of State’s website, as well as through a voicemail left with a phone number associated with Aguilar’s campaign website. The Secretary of State’s office hasn’t provided comment at the time of publishing.
On3 also requested comment through a voicemail left with the Nevada State Legislature.
State NIL legislation often doesn’t provide enforcement mechanisms
If passed, the bill would provide the Secretary of State with significant, and potentially exclusive, insight into or oversight over NIL activities in the state. That could potentially provide Aguilar, and therefore his company, with a competitive advantage. It could also potentially dissuade competitors from pursuing NIL activities in Nevada.
The bill says any individual or entity, which includes collectives, boosters and vendors, that “regularly” facilitates NIL contracts would be required to register annually with the Secretary of State if they’re located in the state, or if the athletes with whom they’re contracted are enrolled at an institution in the state.
The Secretary of State would have the authority to determine what would define individuals or entities that regularly engage in NIL contracts, as well as the registration requirements.
Last summer, around the one-year anniversary of the NCAA’s NIL era, On3 was unable to find any reported violations of state NIL legislation, or even official inquiries into potential violations. Many state laws don’t provide enforcement mechanisms, outside of potential civil remedies.
Plus, lawmakers in states where laws do provide oversight or enforcement capabilities would be unlikely to use them to punish a local institution or athlete at risk of upsetting their constituency.
“Understand, he’s in the Secretary of State position and not necessarily the sponsor of the legislation,” Heitner said. “Although, it does at least give the impression that he and his office had a lot of influence of the drafting of this bill.”
In contrast, the proposed bill in Nevada would provide the Secretary of State’s office with significant oversight over NIL activities in the state. The bill and its potential implications have caught the attention of numerous stakeholders in the NIL landscape, including attorneys and leaders of NIL collectives.
“If pushed to make an educated guess, my belief is that this has no legs,” Heitner said. “That there will be enough pushback from others in the legislative branch in Nevada that perhaps it never even reaches a vote, or it gets heavily amended beforehand.”
Senate Bill No. 70: Documents obtained in investigations are confidential
Senate Bill No. 70 states that with some exceptions, “information or documents obtained by the Secretary of State in connection with an investigation conducted pursuant to this section are confidential.”
Aguilar would also have the ability to “submit any information or evidence obtained in connection with an investigation conducted … to the Attorney General or appropriate district attorney for the purpose of prosecuting a criminal action.”
Under the bill, if an individual or entity refuses to testify or produce documents following a subpoena, the Secretary of State could apply for a court order to compel the individual or entity to comply. The bill states the court order could be addressed to a court in another state that has jurisdiction over the individual or entity if the individual or entity “is not subject to the service of process in this State.”
The Secretary of State could also impose fines of up to $50,000 if it is determined a violation of Senate Bill No. 70 is “willful.” If the Secretary of State imposes a sanction, the Secretary of State could also recover the costs “without limitation” regarding any investigation and attorney’s fees.
Within 30 days after entering into a contract with an athlete who has enrolled at an institution in Nevada or who has signed a National Letter of Intent to attend such an institution, an individual or entity that has signed NIL contracts worth at least $10,000 in aggregate would have to disclose the contract to the institution and the Secretary of State.
In the current landscape, there’s a push-pull effect of calls for greater transparency while many stakeholders prefer their individual privacy.
An individual or entity in Nevada would also have to disclose previous contracts with applicable athletes, even if the contracts are no longer in effect. The Secretary of State would be tasked with keeping the disclosures and making them available for public inspection on the Secretary of State’s website.
“Certainly, even prior to any documents or information becoming public,” Heitner said, “he would have the capacity to review these deals and perhaps have a leg up and earn more goodwill and favoritism with other collectives, not only in the state.”