A Montgomery County circuit court judge last week sided with NBA player Michael Beasley in a case against Joel Bell — Beasley’s Maryland-based former agent — and, for the time being, eliminated the breach-of-contract lawsuit Bell brought against Beasley in January.
On Monday, Beasley’s attorney voluntarily withdrew the third-party complaint Beasley had filed in September against Curtis Malone, who coached Beasley as a youth on Malone’s nationally renowned DC Assault summer basketball program. Malone’s attorney, Bill Heyman, declined to comment when reached by telephone Tuesday.
While Malone’s involvement in the legal matter between Beasley and Bell is done for now, the dispute between the two initial parties continues.
Judge Thomas L. Craven ruled Nov. 29 that Bell could not enforce the player-agent contract he and Beasley signed in April 2008 because Bell had operated without a sports agent license in the state of Maryland. Thus, Craven granted summary judgment to Beasley based on the judge’s finding that the contract with Bell was void.
“The Maryland Uniform Athlete Agent Act exists to regulate agents and protect student-athletes. It functioned as intended in this situation, and justice was done,” Mark A. Smith, Beasley’s attorney, said in a telephone interview Tuesday.
Bell has 30 days from the date of Craven’s ruling to file an appeal. When reached by telephone Tuesday, Bell would not comment on the matter other than to say he plans to appeal. Bell’s attorney, Glenn C. Etelson, did not return a message left seeking comment.
At issue is the interpretation of Maryland law regarding the licensing of sports agents and whether it is relevant that Bell is not and never has applied to be a licensed sports agent in the state.
A section of the 2003 Maryland Uniform Athlete Agent Act states that “an individual may not act as an athlete agent in the State without holding a license” and that “an agency contract resulting from conduct in violation of this section is void and the athlete agent shall return any consideration received under the contract.”
Dennis L. Gring, the executive director of the Maryland Sports Agent Program within the state’s Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation, said in a Nov. 2 letter to Beasley’s attorney, Mark A. Smith, that “a review of the licensing records of the Department indicates that Joel Bell has never possessed a license as a sports agent in the State of Maryland.” Gring also stated that Bell had never applied for a license to be a sports agent in Maryland.
However, on the DLLR’s Web site, Gring authored a statement that said the Agent Licensing Act “licenses and regulates individuals who offer their services to athletes who participate on interscholastic and intercollegiate sports teams in Maryland.”
Gring did not return a message left Tuesday seeking clarification.
Beasley attended and played basketball on scholarship at Kansas State during 2007-08, and Bell, according to court documents, was a licensed sports agent in the state of Kansas during the time he signed into a player-agent agreement with Beasley.
Bell, in his original lawsuit, claimed Beasley had breached his representation agreement with Bell’s agency, Bell Sports Incorporated. Beasley fired Bell just prior to signing an endorsement deal with Adidas.
In response to Bell’s suit, Beasley — the No. 2 overall pick in the 2008 NBA draft — filed a counter claim in September alleging that Bell and Malone had violated NCAA rules and federal laws governing agent conduct. The counter claim was unaffected by Craven’s Nov. 29 ruling and remains active. A trial date has been set for March 19.