Headline NFL Players Sports Agents

Protecting Your Client Base From The Sharks

The following is a guest contribution from Martin Fischman (@Martin_Fischman), Dynasty’s Football Division Director.

During this post draft/pre training-camp season, it seems that rookies have switched agencies at a higher rate than ever before.  It is perplexing as to why so many players are changing agents when no player contracts can be negotiated and endorsement deals for rookies are at a standstill until the lockout is lifted.  Rumors have circulated that the majority of the big name players that have changed representation after the draft have done so in favor of agencies that are willing to provide them with benefits that are completely unnecessary to their success in the NFL.  Every time I see an “On To The Next One” post, I think back to some valuable advice I received from an NFL Front Office employee some time ago:  “Although I’ve never been an agent, be careful in this profession…I’ve seen some of our players fire the agent that stood by them from the beginning, only to sign with bigger agents as soon as they qualified for renegotiation or were on the verge of a new contract.”

I understand why a player would want to change agents if he feels his agent is incompetent, but why would a player fire an agent he signed with just months ago, especially when that agent has not even had the opportunity to negotiate a contract for the player?  Clearly, the only answer that any of us in the agent community can think of is money.  If players are leaving for monetary incentives, how then does a lesser known agent hold onto his client for the long haul? The answer, according to this author, is “trust.”

Many agents love to talk about trust when recruiting potential clients, but what exactly is trust?  Trust, as defined by Miriam Webster’s Dictionary, is “assured reliance on the character, ability, strength, or truth of someone or something.”

Based on this definition, it seems “trust” is something that must be built over time between two people.  It is not something that can be established unilaterally.

From an athlete’s point of view, the ability to trust an agent is a vital component of that athlete’s professional success.  As agents, we provide clients with advice that will markedly impact their careers.  As a professional athlete (or one hoping to be a professional athlete), you have to be sure that your agent is acting in your best interest with his advice at all times.  As we have seen recently, trust between an agent and a client is not built via a representation agreement and the payment of combine training.  An agent has to work exceptionally hard at earning his client’s trust.  Most agents wear far more hats than simply that of a contract advisor.  At Dynasty, we adhere to the notion that we are “athlete advocates” who empower our clients with knowledge of the law, dispute resolution, collective bargaining agreements, player contracts, performance training, and a host of other elements relevant to their professional sport, all while undertaking a fiduciary duty to zealously represent our clients.  There are many other agencies with other insightful concepts as to how they perceive their role as an agent.  John Phillips, CEO of My Breakthrough Sports Agency, considers an agent’s role as being the “CEO” of his clients’ business affairs.  Phillips’ explanation of an agent’s role is dead on, and it raises an interesting anomaly that every pro athlete should understand:  While the agent is an employee of the athlete, in order for an agent to do an effective job, an athlete must take his agent’s advice and trust that it is in his best interest.

But what is trust from an agent’s view?  Just like an athlete has to trust his agent, an agent must feel that he can trust his client.  The agencies that have lost clients in the past two months certainly would not have invested their time and resources into those clients if they knew they would leave them shortly after the draft.  In order to prevent this from happening, the agent and athlete must have a relationship built on mutual trust.  Just like an athlete should never sign with an agent that is not trustworthy, if an agent cannot totally trust an athlete, there is no use in representing him in the first place.

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.