Sports Agents

The “Sleaze Factor” Among Other Terms

While I was away in beautiful, but definitely scorching hot Las Vegas, Nicholas sent me a link over to a article written by Liz Mullen that dealt with the Sports Agent profession [Sleaze factor off the charts, agents allege]. Here is what I found to be the important commentary, with a little bit of analysis intertwined:

The Minister of DefenseThe article begins by discussing how long time superstar defensive lineman, Reggie White (may he rest in peace), attempted to get involved in the Sports Agent business after retiring from football. It did not take long for Mr. White to become angered with his colleagues in the business and quit the profession. But is the business in the “crisis stage” that Reggie White places it in, and is it due to a “sleaze factor“?

Client stealing, or “Stalking“, as Nicholas has mentioned in a prior post, is a major issue for current Sports Agents and may be much more regulated in the future due to an increasing number of lawsuits [Stalking?]. Alan Milstein, attorney for agent Tommy Tanzer, calls the new battle to acquire a client after he/she is already under the guidance of an agent “the second game,” and claims that it is a new phenomenon in the business. The NFL has received more blame for playing the second game than any other professional league.

Bill Saum, the NCAA’s director of agent, gambling, and amateur activities does not believe that the second game will be ending any time soon. He believes that young lawyers and law students should just stay away from the Sports Agent profession because of its ruthlessness and necessity to break rules and laws in order to be successful. I am 100% against taking that advice. With more knowledge than your competitors about the business, a stronger drive, and connections made legally, I feel that there is still ample space in the profession for newcomers to kick out the “old guys” who have been able to survive without producing at a high level (and some do it illegally).

A different perspective that has nothing to do with the sleaze factor comes from the big man in charge of Adidas’s expanding basketball program, Sonny Vaccaro. He places a huge emphasis on a college coach’s impact on who their players sign with. This fact introduces a new point that I have not discussed in the past. These coaches may not be comfortable with a brand new agent with little to no experience in representing professional athletes, so it is important that as an aspiring agent, you try to forge as many relationships with various coaches and various players while they are young, before they are about to graduate. If you are already a registered agent, I am not promoting that you break your state’s rules or the UAAA to take a player out to dinner, use a runner, or throw some money at a potential client.

The last item discussed is an issue that I think can be avoided if there is a strong relationship between agent/client and each one trusts the other completely. It revolves around the pickup line: “Where’s your agent.” The line is used at big events where many clients and agents are notoriously seen together (i.e. Super Bowl, Pro Bowl). Many agents feel as if they have to go to all of these events purely out of fear that other agents will try to steal their clients by using the pickup line if they are not in attendance. First of all, that should not be a reason to be in attendance to support one of your players if he/she is in such a major event. But second of all, if the relationship is not strong enough to have faith in your client to be able to discard such a line, then maybe you do not deserve to represent that client in the first place.

It really is not surprising that yet another media outlet places a grim picture on the Sports Agent business. Hopefully these kinds of stories that do provide some hope in the form of increased regulations in the major professional sports will drive the older agents that have relied on illegal activity out of the profession and provide more space for incoming law students and young lawyers. I still find it interesting that the man placed as the NCAA’s director of agent, gambling, and amateur activities would advice young people away from the business that he is responsible to promote and regulate. Maybe his job will soon be up for sale as well.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

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