“Seeking Legal Opinions Play a Major Part of the LHSAA’s Decision-Making Process!”

Recently, there have been several articles written regarding the LHSAA and NIL (Name, Image and Likeness). One of these articles missed badly on the topic, the other is a legal question that was answered during the Spring Executive Committee meeting. Simply speaking, it’s articles such as these is why the LHSAA stopped releasing penalty sanctions for schools who have committed rule violations. These articles aren’t written to tell a story, they are written ‘to get a click.’ One of the articles included so much false information, ‘The National Enquirer’ rejected it. It was obvious the author put very little effort and research into the topic he was writing. The other article questions a legal opinion. Here is the thing, legal opinions aren’t popularity contest. Legal opinions often go against what most of us would think is common sense. Everyone has an opinion, but a personal opinion has very little influence in comparison to a legal opinion.

I want to reset how and why the NIL topic came up during the Spring Executive Committee meeting.

Over the past 6 months, the LHSAA has received numerous calls on the subject of NIL. One of those calls came from the state epidemiologist inquiring about the possibility of high school athlete’s receiving payment to do PSA’s. This triggered the Executive Director of the LHSAA, Eddie Bonine, to contact his LHSAA legal team for a legal opinion. More specifically, is there anything in the LHSAA’s Constitution or bylaws prohibiting Louisiana high school students for participating in deals pertaining to their NIL. Mark Boyer, the LHSAA’s legal representative, legal opinion was in “there was nothing in the LHSAA bylaws that prevented Louisiana’s high school students from benefiting from NIL.”

That is, it; the LHSAA did not create a new proposal, a new amendment, a new bylaw, nothing. The LHSAA announced their legal position based on their governing documents as it pertains to NIL. It was a legal opinion for clarification.

One of the two articles went as far to say, “For some, this raised the question whether or not the association, which governs Louisiana high school athletics, has lost its collective mind.” Why? Because they asked for a legal opinion? Or is the article suggesting going against the governing documents?

Bonine claimed early on in his tenure with the LHSAA, “I don’t make the rules, I enforce them.” To make sure he and his staff enforce those rules correctly, Bonine is very consistent when it comes utilizing the LHSAA’s legal team. Bonine knows EVERY decision he, his staff and the Executive Committee make, effects one or more student/athletes. As the Executive Director and Executive Committee, you owe it to the student-athletes to follow the Constitution.

Here is a perfect example of what happens when an Executive Director and Executive Committee intentionally overlook a proposal that violates its Constitution. At the 2013 Annual Convention, the LHSAA’s membership was allowed to vote on and pass a proposal to split the football playoffs between private and public schools. There was a lot of questions surrounding the validity of this proposal. So much so, the Executive Director at the time, Kenny Henderson, asked for an outside legal opinion after the Annual Convention. According to the author of the proposal, the legal opinion said the proposal was good to go.

Here were the concerns:
1) The author submitted the proposal almost 2 months’ later than the bylaws allow.
2) The proposal skipped constitutional protocol which all proposals must follow before being voted on at the Annual Convention.
3) The proposal did not follow the proper protocol for forming divisions.
4) The proposal forced certain schools to play above their classification; this is also unconstitutional.

The outside legal opinion the Director sought after the proposal passed, came to the same conclusion as Mark Boyer came to in 2016. ‘Both proposals (2013 football split proposal and the 2016 expanded split proposal) were unconstitutional” and never should have made it to a vote. However, since the approval process for these proposals were ignored, the consequences have been complicated to say the least.

For example, during the recent Spring Executive Committee meeting, because of the 2013 football split proposal and the 2016 expanded split proposal, the Committee approved a ‘mercy rule’ that will be added to the football (42 points) and basketball (35 points) play for regular and post-season. Due to the lack of constitutional integrity of these proposals, the competitiveness in the Association has dropped and the margins of victory have increased. Result: student/athletes lose.

Sure, Bonine, the LHSAA staff and Executive Committee could have taken the path of least resistance by prohibiting NIL deals but that is not how the Constitution reads. Furthermore, everyday Bonine and his staff already deal with the repercussions of the 2013 and 2016 proposals, why add more to your plate. So, for anyone to be critical of someone who is following the governing documents of an Association, has lost their ‘collective mind.’ Then again, when you know the purpose of a constitution is to protect the people for whom the Association operates, it should not be that difficult. Just in case you did not know, the LHSAA operates for the student-athletes of our state.

For those who followed me, you know I do my research. When Bonine was hired as LHSAA Director, I did my due diligence on him as well and what I found was “From the time he spent in Nevada to the time he has spent in our state, Bonine has always put the student-athlete first.”

As far as 1.25 (Maintaining Amateur Status) is concerned, I will refer to the 8/9/21 edition of US News & World Report. In an interview with Kenneth Shropshire, a professor and CEO of Global Sports Institute at Arizona State, he answers the question, “When it comes to NIL endorsements, what is fair game?” Shropshire replied, “Anything that is not a direct reward, compensation-wise, for your athletic performance.”

Ask yourself these questions; 1) Does my name have anything to do with my athleticism? 2) Does my image make me a better athlete? 3) Does the amount of people who like me, have anything to do with how good on an athlete I am? The answers are “no.”

Let me give you this scenario. A senior girls basketball player enters a beauty pageant and wins ten grand. She also receives NIL deals due to her win, is she now ineligible to play basketball?
In the same edition of US News, Attorney Andrew F. Dana highly suggest finding a support system for NIL deals; “suddenly student-athletes are small business owners.” Dana continues by saying, “The old maxim ‘more money, more problems’ rings especially true for tax season.” Athletes and families need to be very judicious and thoughtful and careful about who they partner with, because it can affect the athletes’ brand and economics.”

As Bonine has said, “Educate, not regulate” was the exact purpose of the actions taken by Mr Bonine and the Executive Committee during this year’s Spring Executive Committee meeting.

Todd Black