Florida legislator says Bears DT Gervon Dexter's NIL deal violated law

The NIL contract that Chicago Bears rookie Gervon Dexter signed with a speculative investment capital company while playing at the University of Florida in 2022 violated a state NIL law in place at the time, the Florida state legislator who sponsored the bill told ESPN on Tuesday.

Dexter, a second-round draft pick, agreed to pay Big League Advance Fund (BLA) 15% of his pre-tax NFL earnings for the next 25 years in exchange for a one-time payment of $436,485 in 2022, according to a copy of a federal lawsuit filed in the U.S. District Court in Gainesville, Florida, on Friday.

According to published reports, Dexter signed a four-year, $6.72 million contract with the Bears on June 16, meaning he would owe BLA about $1 million over the lifetime of that deal.

Florida Rep. Chip LaMarca, who proposed the initial legislation in 2020 that allowed college athletes in Florida to profit off their name, image and likeness, described Dexter's deal as a "predatory loan."

"The deals were supposed to be that an athlete could participate in the free market and when they graduate, whether they go on to play professionally or not, any future contracts are null and void," LaMarca said. "In other words, we didn't want someone having access to someone's future without them having proper guidance and proper representation."

The original Florida NIL law, Senate Bill 646, included the following provision: "The duration of a contract for representation of an intercollegiate athlete or compensation for the use of an intercollegiate athlete's name, image or likeness may not extend beyond her or his participation in an athletic program at a postsecondary educational institution."

"Obviously, we wanted to expose college athletes to the same free market that other college students had, but at the same time we wanted to offer some protections," LaMarca said. "We wanted to make sure that they didn't get taken advantage of, and this is exactly what we expected to be able to protect, but we also didn't want to see it happen.

"It looks like what happened with him was really nothing more than a predatory loan by an out-of-state LLC from Delaware. No agent involved, no compliance, no review of a contract and all that. So it's pretty scary to think that this can happen. He's done all the right things. He has succeeded. He is in the NFL, and he's got this hanging over his head."

In February, Florida state lawmakers pulled back many of the guardrails in an updated NIL bill, including the clause that prohibited NIL deals from extending into a student-athlete's professional career.

Dexter's attorneys declined comment. Michael Schwimer, BLA's CEO and founder, didn't immediately reply to a request for comment from ESPN.

Dexter's attorneys are asking a federal judge to void his agreement with BLA because it does not conform with Florida's NIL law and the state's athlete agent statute. Specifically, his lawyers allege that the agreement did not include specific language required under the agent statute, the company failed to notify Florida athletic director Scott Stricklin of the deal, and BLA and its agents weren't licensed in Florida.

According to the lawsuit, Scott McBrien, an authorized agent of BLA, sent a message to Dexter in May 2022 that said, "What's up Gervon! I'm a partner at a data & analytics firm here in Washington, DC. We have a 6 figure financial/NIL opportunity for you. Would love to discuss more if you're interested. Let me know what you think."

The lawsuit alleges that BLA provided Dexter with an agreement on May 16, 2022. He signed the deal the next morning. Under the terms of the agreement, a copy of which was obtained by ESPN, BLA agreed to make Dexter a one-time payment of $436,485 and a $5,000 contribution to the charity of his choice.

There were two terms included in the agreement: an initial term that finished once Dexter's collegiate eligibility expired and an extended term that commenced when he left college.

In exchange for the payment, Dexter granted BLA a "perpetual, irrevocable, royalty-free, and worldwide license for the duration of the Initial Term to use the Player's name, image, likeness, comments, biographical information and/or athletic reputation for the advertisement or publication of BLA, including in social media posts, interviews, online content, press releases, and any other media."

Dexter was required to make at least one social media post promoting BLA and its products, autograph as many as 100 items for BLA, make at least two personal appearances and provide BLA with at least one VIP invitation to the NFL draft and draft-related events that he hosted.

Section 5.1.a of the BLA agreement spelled out what Dexter would owe BLA financially during the extended period of the deal: "'Professional Football Earnings' means all of Player's pre-tax earnings or remuneration paid to Player by a Professional Football League or Team during the Extended Term of this Agreement. Such earnings shall include, without limitation, any wages, salary (including Player's Team Payments), Bonuses (including deferred bonuses), payments made to Player by reason of Player's participation in any playoff game, all-star game, or other championship event, and other compensation whatsoever earned by Player in his services to the Professional Football League or Team of any kind related to or for Player participating in Football Activities, and participating at events during the Extended Term of this Agreement."

In a questionnaire that was part of the agreement, Dexter initialed a section where he was asked if he agreed to give BLA 15% of his "future professional football earnings."

"As an example, of the potential amounts that you may be required to pay Big League Advance under this Agreement, if you make $100 [million] in Professional Football Earnings over the 25 years from the date you sign this Agreement, you will be required to pay us $15 [million] as you earn that money," the questionnaire said.

Under the terms of the deal, any disputes are to be settled by binding arbitration.

Corey Staniscia, a political consultant who was involved in drafting the original NIL law in Florida, said he wasn't aware of any other NIL groups or collectives with similar contracts to the one Dexter signed with BLA.

"I have not heard of a collective doing that, but I had heard of brands wanting to do that, some other folks wanting to do these things, like an agent, and we just didn't want to have an athlete essentially sell their own future between 18 and 22 years old when the universities are not providing professional services for these athletes, and a lot of them can't afford it," said Staniscia, who works with an NIL collective at the University of South Florida. "Who's going to be reviewing these contracts like this? Really it was a bad contract."

Another Florida-based attorney, who has negotiated dozens of NIL deals over the past few years, told ESPN: "Outside of this BLA, I have not seen anyone try to reach and take what you would call the player's brand income in the future. No, I haven't seen that."

According to BLA's website, it has worked with dozens of Major League Baseball players, including Reds shortstop Elly De La Cruz, Marlins outfielder Jazz Chisholm, Nationals catcher Keibert Ruiz and Twins pitcher Bailey Ober.

Its roster of football players includes former Georgia linebacker Nolan Smith, a first-round pick of the Eagles; former North Carolina defensive lineman Myles Murphy, a first-round pick of the Bengals; and USC defensive lineman Korey Foreman.

U.S. Sens. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama and Joe Manchin of West Virginia have introduced federal legislation that would require agents to register with the Federal Trade Commission. NCAA president Charlie Baker also said he wants the NCAA to find a way to certify agents either through federal laws or on their own.

"The parameters are not very well written," Tuberville told ESPN on Tuesday. "The laws aren't out there, so you're going to have some taking advantage of others. Obviously, that's going to happen. It happens in every business. Education is going to have to be a big part of this.

"The NCAA is going to have to get involved in it because they're the ones who have done it for years, saying you can talk to an agent, but they have to be certified, it has to be at a certain time, parents have to be involved."

ESPN's Dan Murphy contributed to this report.