Contract Negotiation Endorsements NBA Players NFL Players Sports Agents Sports Business

The Value of Character In The World of Sports

“There [are] a lot of players with a lot of talent, but some don’t have character, and who we really don’t want to be involved with. The great thing about success in business, you really philosophically choose your clients, and also say no to others.”

Scott Boras made that statement in a great story (that I suggest you read) in the Daily Pilot this week. He made the statement in relation to some questions about what happened between himself and Barry Bonds (whom he used to represent).

But can an agent detect a potential client’s character early enough? Could Pacman Jones’ agent or Mike Vick’s agent known that they would become huge busts based on their character? I’ll let you all debate that one.

Joe Sroba, a sports agent, believes that agents can take preventative measures to better ensure that their clients do not make the wrong moves that can kill their endorsement potential and possibly put them in jail. He thinks that it may boil down to an issue of athletes having too much time on their hands, and believes that agents should step in and become a larger part of their clients’ lives [Agent: Pro athletes have too much time].

That’s all fine and good. An agent should take an active role in his clients’ lives, but honestly, I doubt that is going to change much in any one of the clients’ characters. Here is another question: If you do take on a client that has character issues and that player does commit some sort of act to ruin his/her public image, do you just let them go and try to save your own name? Or do you actually try to help that person that you have a fiduciary duty to protect?

Not everyone is Mike Vick. Take for instance, Brady Quinn. He was getting terrible publicity for holding out of camp, asking for more money than the slot he was drafted in would prescribe, and for charging to sign autographs at a mall while still holding out. Some might have said that the kid had character issues. But as Jeff Carroll of the South Bend Tribute says, “Quinn learned the most important lesson in sports as it relates to corporate America — unless you’re Michael Vick, image rehabilitation is only a brilliant performance away.” [Fixing image one TD at a time]. If you can put it together on the field and off of it, you are good to go. Without one of the two, life becomes tough for the athlete and the agent.

So if you are an athlete, you have a lot of reasons to keep good character. Most importantly, your value will be affected by your character (to teams, endorsers, etc). But also, agents may make a pass on you if they deem that you have some character flaws.

I’ll leave off with a modern example. Sports Law Blog points out that Ruben Patterson is having a tough time getting signed now that he is a free agent [Thoughts on Michael Vick, Ruben Patterson, and Lawrence Pedowitz]. He is a player who puts up good numbers and is a good defender. He would have a lot of value attached to his name…had he not attempted to rape his child’s 24-year-old (at the time) nanny. It occurred in 2000, and he is still feeling the effects. What you do today, could affect your value for years.

But enough of the sad stories, have a happy, fun, and safe weekend!

-Darren Heitner

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.