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Blitzing the Contract: Gervon Dexter's Fight Against NIL's Dark Side

Published onFeb 28, 2024
Blitzing the Contract: Gervon Dexter's Fight Against NIL's Dark Side

With the groundbreaking decision to allow collegiate athletes to profit from their personal branding in the form of Name, Image, and Likeness (“NIL”) deals, the landscape of college sports has been forever changed. What was once a distinct line between amateur and professional has now become blurred, leading to the rise of unprecedented opportunities for student-athletes to be compensated for their talents. However, as is the case with most major changes, this transition is not without its growing pains.

Enter Gervon Dexter Sr., a former star defensive tackle for the University of Florida and now rookie for the Chicago Bears. Dexter is currently fighting a legal battle, seeking release from a contract he signed with Big League Advantage (“BLA”),  in what has become a case which highlights the dark side of NIL deals. While many student athletes across the country reap the rewards of brand partnerships, Dexter’s situation is a cautionary tale of the risks surrounding this new frontier.

Following a standout sophomore season, Dexter garnered attention which highlighted his NFL potential, and he was presented an opportunity to sign a partnership deal with BLA. Dexter received $436,485 from BLA, with the agreement that they would get fifteen percent of his pre-tax earnings from his future NFL career. With the average salaries of the top defensive linemen in the league eclipsing twenty million dollars per year, Dexter could potentially owe over three million dollars a year to BLA, far surpassing the one-time fee he received as a student athlete.

It might raise eyebrows, but such agreements are par for the course at BLA. Established by an ex-Major League Baseball pitcher, BLA functions more akin to an investment portfolio than your standard NIL branding arrangement. According to its website, BLA represents over 500 athletes, including MLB rising star Elly De La Cruz and NFL first round draft pick Nolan Smith. The company uses advanced analytics to find players it believes have the potential to become major stars in their respective sports, and it then “invests” in these athletes by providing an upfront payment in exchange for a significant percentage of their future earnings.  Though many of these bets do not pay off, the big wins offset the losses. Case in point, from a modest $350,000 payment, BLA is now earning 8% of MLB All-Star Fernando Tatis Jr.’s whopping 340-million-dollar contract – a remarkable $27 million plus in returns.

Historically, there’s been apprehension regarding BLA’s operations, with some labeling the company as predatory or even dubbing it a scam. BLA might contend it is operating fairly, pointing out that not every contract they issue guarantees success; If an athlete does not make it to the professional level, there is no obligation on their part to return any money. Yet, whatever one's stance on the morality of these arrangements, they have been on the right side of legal lines –  at least so far. They have faced legal challenges before; notably, in 2018, MLB catcher Francisco Mejía brought a lawsuit against the company alleging that BLA leveraged his lack of financial knowledge and urgent need for funds. However, he eventually withdrew the lawsuit, and since then, there have not been any major disputes against these agreements, until the present moment.

While BLA traditionally has focused on minor league baseball players, their venture into the NIL market might lead to different legal implications.  Without a nationwide NIL regulation in place, Florida's specific NIL statute could serve as Dexter's way out. Under Florida's legislation, any NIL agreement that conflicts with a university’s policies is considered null and void. The University of Florida’s rules regarding NIL deals stipulate that the length of a contract cannot surpass a student-athlete's collegiate eligibility. Because Dexter's agreement spans both his college and professional career, his legal team seeks to have the contract rendered invalid on this basis. Florida legislators, including Chip LaMarca who proposed the state's NIL bill, specifically aimed to prevent such deals. LaMarca commented on the situation, saying, "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,” referencing this particular contract.

It remains to be seen how this case will develop, as BLA has not yet made any response to the complaint. While this new frontier is abundant with life changing potential, Dexter’s story underscores the need to emphasize the protection of these young athletes. With every new opportunity that NIL presents, it also introduces complex contractual obligations that many may not be fully prepared to navigate. As the frequency of these agreements grows, litigation will surely follow until a new standard is established. 


 Gavin Garcia is a 2L student at Wake Forest University School of Law and serves as a staff member for the university's Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. He pursued his undergraduate studies in Finance and Political Science at the University of Georgia. After earning his law degree, Gavin  plans to stay in North Carolina and practice financial transactional law in Charlotte.

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Email: [email protected]


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