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The Legal Impact Of Self-Representation In Professional Sports

Prior to the start of the NFL season, Denver Broncos offensive lineman Russell Okung received a lot of attention as he chose to negotiate his own free agent deal. Over the past few seasons, there seems to be a growing trend of NFL players choosing to negotiate their contracts without the help of an agent. Bernard Pollard, Justin Smith and Ereck Flowers are just a few players that have went into contract negotiations agent-less.

Jodi Balsam, Associate Professor of Clinical Law at Brooklyn Law School, recently wrote an article titled “Free My Agent” that looks into the legal implications of self-representation for professional athletes. The article was first published in the Wake Forest Journal of Business and Intellectual Property Law. Jodi had a very interesting take on the future value propositions for sports agents in the quote below.

“As more players choose to represent themselves in contract negotiations, or otherwise opt out of the traditional athlete-agent relationship, the sports agent business is headed for a crisis of confidence. Arguably, that crisis has already arrived with the widespread concern about agent competence, conflicts, and conduct. It takes on new urgency, however, as athletes are questioning the very value proposition of using an agent in the setting of the player contract negotiation. As one commentator put it: “to bring down the pro sports agent house of cards, players need only to sincerely question ‘what are we getting for the percentage of gross compensation that we pay to our agents?’” In the current environment of rookie pay scales, veteran maximums, and league-wide salary caps, the answer may well be to forgo a commission-based agent in favor of à la carte advice at an hourly rate.”

Click here to access “Free My Agent” in its entirety.