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No Longer A Sports Agent – Now An Athlete Advocate

Yesterday something clicked and made me renounce my title as sports agent.  Since starting in this business, I was never too fond of the phrase.  What exactly is a ‘sports agent’ anyway?  After taking Business Organizations Law as a 2L in law school, I could give you a 5 page definition of ‘agent’.  Instead, I’ll try to boil it down to 1 sentence: An agent is someone who has a fiduciary duty to be loyal to the person who consents that the agent will act on that person’s behalf and is subject to that person’s control. Adding ‘sports’ in front of ‘agent’ merely acts as a limitation on the agent’s scope.  I have no qualms with that.  The problem is the connotation that the phrase ‘sports agent’ has received from the general public, and the shift in definition of the phrase over time.  I’m tired of it, and would like to separate myself from it.

I no longer want to be associated with those who offer empty promises to players in order to find their name on an agency contract.  I don’t want athletes to think they can use me to pay for their training as if I am some sort of lending institution (how exactly did agents become the people who finance training anyway…where is that in the definition?).  And I definitely do not want to be grouped with any ‘sports agents’ who will violate the law or act unethically to gain a buck, or 100,000 bucks.

All of these thoughts led me to tweet this:

The responses were tremendous.   The best question was when one person asked if my re-branding would change the name of this blog.  Don’t worry, SportsAgentBlog.com is not getting a new domain name.

I’m a child of this amazing internet age.  My company, Dynasty Athlete Representation, has experienced the tremendous growth of the internet and social media since its birth in April 2007.  Thus, I was not all that surprised when my tweet created such an overwhelming response.  I was also not surprised that I would end up adopting a title that was introduced by someone who decided to reply.  The winner = athlete advocate.

Even advocate has the potential of having a negative connotation.  Wikipedia mentions that advocates represent those who lack the knowledge, skill, ability, or standing to speak for themselves.  But this is not what I am trying to convey at all.  Instead, I want to be someone who will do absolutely anything legal and ethical for my clients, and also empower them with knowledge as I aid them in their future success.  I see it as a process that involves my clients as much as possible.  They are not dumb in any sense, but they hire me and Dynasty for a reason – because we can add value that they might not be able to achieve on their own.  It could purely be that they do not have the time to do it in conjunction with excelling on the field or court.  It could also be a matter of the connections in the industry that we have built over time.  Additionally, our background in law and negotiation is something that many athletes do not have an opportunity to focus on until after their playing days are over.  These are the values I want my clients and potential clients to see; not the buying of players by paying training costs or promises that I will turn someone into a first round pick.  I’ll leave that to the ‘sports agents’.  What I want to provide is what an athlete advocate can do for his clients.

Sports agents will undoubtedly feel uncomfortable after reading this post.  I have beat the odds by getting to where I am today, especially since I have been very open from the start and have not allowed myself to get involved in any shady tactics.  Nothing will change.  In this process, I will attract haters and I will attract imitators, but all I care about is my clients knowing that they will get the best damn advocate they can find.

I am not only re-branding myself.  I want to re-brand Dynasty as an entity that you feel excited to be a part of. From the beginning, I have embraced openness about our inner workings and have provided you with information about our clients.  Hopefully you have grown to become familiar with our operation.  Dynasty is something that has amazing potential, and I want all of you to be a part of its success.  I want it to be the first agency that has its doors wide open and offers everyone interested in the opportunity to be an athlete advocate the chance to add value to the company and its clients.

No matter what the reasoning may be, I know you are smiling.

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.

30 replies on “No Longer A Sports Agent – Now An Athlete Advocate”

I agree that the title Sports Agent has been tarnished a bit. The term “Athlete Advocate” is a much more suitable title. The key now is to make sure that doesnt get a bad name either!

My name is Royce. I’m 15 years old and i’ve been reading the blogs on this website since October 2009. I really want to be a Athelete Advocate(sports agent) and if anyone has a little time off, could they tell me what colleges or eduacational programs will help me? What extracarricular activities will help prepare as I am in highschoo?

While I commend you for this stance, another way to look at it is that you individually and Dynasty as an entity were doing your best to re-brand the concept of a sports agent. You were trying to give the profession a better name. Nothing wrong with that.

you do realize all the top agency pay for their athletes to train in the off season?

Its not a matter a matter of should or should not and if you are getting bogged down in that then you are missing the point. Agents pick up the tab for training, equipment, etc because thats what the market calls for agents to do.

Its a competitive market and thats where it stands. Whatever is “right” in your mind has nothing to do with it. Is there something “right” about taking a 4% commission? Maybe in your mind thats too high or too low. But that (give or take) is what the market calls for so thats what it is.

I think that training, equipment, and other costs should be picked up by the agent in certain circumstances, but it has become almost a prerequisite to represent at least football players in the industry, which I think is crazy. When players who have 0.0001% chance of being drafted demand that you pick up training costs just to start the conversation, something has gone wrong.

Yes, it is a very competitive market. Can I justify taking 4%? I do believe so. I can also justify an hourly rate or a flat fee. The one sentence in your comment that really irritates me is: “But that (give or take) is what the market calls for so thats what it is.” I will never do something just because the market calls for it. If it forces me out of the industry, so be it. At least I know it will be on my terms.

Im sorry my comment irritates you. Let me ask you this – what is the commission percentage that you charge? You dont even need to reveal the number if you dont want to.

My next question is – how did you initially arrive at that number? Im guessing you didnt run hours and hours of calculations and metrics and cost benefit analyses and bring in outside statisticians and consultants and, after all that, happened to land on a number.

Im guessing you looked at what others in the industry were charging (3-4%) and set your price accordingly. Similarly for marketing deals Im guessing you charge a 15-20% commission, which is industry standard.

In other words, you let the market dictate (substantially if not completely) what you were doing/charging.

Good point, but I also am more than willing to negotiate that contingency fee, flat fee, or hourly fee with each of my clients or his counsel. The market does help establish a starting point, however.

Great article couldn’t agree anymore, a sports agent should never loose his own money on a client. Paying thousands of dollars for a player who isn’t likely is to be drafted is just being a bad business man. Now if that player wants to me to guide him and help explore different options I am all for it. As for the athlete Advocate it sounds nice in a fairy tale world but athletes want the $$$$ and athlete advocate doesn’t scream $$$$$

First off — to begin, I support this 100%. I think what has happened is that money has become a prerequisite for success – as in the first priority has been to make the money at any cost. Whereas it should be success comes first then the money follows.

If your honest with yourself and honest with your client — then the money will follow. What comes around goes around — sometimes it’s for the better. A lot of agents are followers, meaning they follow the money and put their morals and identity aside. An agent (now advocate) should be a leader, someone who people can trust and believe in. Someone who when times are tough — goes out of their way to make sure things are alright.

If you truly care about people then this motto or mantra rings through the ears. It’s a lifestyle, not a job, and borderline a career. If you truly care about people, their feelings — and their overall well being, the sky is the limit as an Athlete Advocate.

Darren, thank god — your speaking to the choir here at Dynasty. To those of you out there, this isn’t a fad..it’s reality — it’s the real deal.

A. Why are you wasting your time recruiting football players who have no shot at being drafted in beyond me. Why waste your time?

B. Most top baseball agencies pay for winter training if the player is on the 40 man or a top draft pick.

C. Any football player that is going to be drafted expects to have all training payed for until the draft.

That is the business. If you think you can recruit and land players and not offer those services then so be it but if you are truly a full service agency you will have to offer these services.

I am not going to waste my time recruiting football players who have no shot at being drafted. Many agents will. I don’t see it as smart business. Football costs a lot to break in and allows for very marginal revenue, especially if you are charging below 3% to remain competitive. I just don’t see how some contractual advisors make money if they are not also doing a player’s marketing.

BRAVO! A young professional who seems to know the meaning of “agent”. I also feel that the field has become one of an auction. Lets all bid for the right to represent someone. It would be great if education, reputation, experience, honesty, ethics, honor and truth were the bonds that cemented playeer and representative, agent, advisor, advocate. And no one dictates that one must charge the 3% fee. fig

Athletes want the best representation, which includes branding, advice, various revenue streams, investment strategies and counsel (among other things). I believe Darren is on to something. Following graduation from law school in May, sitting for the bar and becoming certified by the NFLPA in August, I plan on leaving a positive impression in the sports agent world.

I agree with this but I just think ‘agent’ sounds more professional. Advocate sounds like you’re someone who stands outside with a picket sign. Agent has more of a “let’s get this deal done” connotation. Eh, but that’s just me…

Great article! I recently entered the sports business world and I agree totally. I understand how competitive it is to stay afloat in this grueling industry,and how poor agents ruin the ethical standards and turn into “yess men” for their potential clients.

Paying for training is a big issue I have. If you’re a top pick most places will let you come for free to market their business. Will I pay for training? Sure, if the kid has a solid draft grade rounds 1-5. Will I make sure his/her end to end needs are met? Sure. Will I cater to every want ? Sure will not!!!! These kids and parents have become ridiculous in the demands they are requesting. If they see a kid on TV get certain things you better believe they want two times what they saw. An agent should really be more in tune with a teams needs as he is working for his client, not his girlfriends wants!!!!!

im very good at picking players that i see have the skills to be a pro, im trying to become a agent how do i go by doing what do i need to get started. money, lawyer what is it

[…] It is not just Blue that is trying to shed that limiting phrase from what is associated with his name.  When I talk to executives at some of the largest “agencies”, a majority of them want to emphasize to me that when I report on their companies, I should talk about not only what they do in the athlete representation world, but their other areas of business as well.  And then there are those who also can’t stand the “sports agent” phrase to begin with.  As you may already know, I am one of those people. […]

Big D is right on – Football is tough. In my first year I represented 25 guys – 6 first team all-americans (not D1) as well as many D1 talents – Wow – What a story, I swear I could write a book – and these guys aren’t loyal – no matter what amount of money you spend on training, etc.

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