"Read everything before you sign on the dotted line because a deal is a deal” is what a judge reminded an opposing party in a court hearing I attended this afternoon with attorneys in Parker County, TX.
This may come across as one of the most obvious statements of all time, but you would be surprised at how many of us sign contracts or enter into agreements all day every day without reading any of the supporting paperwork. There are times when this can be extremely risky. This is especially true for professional athletes who typically have
agents, teams, leagues, union staff and reps, sponsors, attorneys, financial planners, and a whole host of others who are shoving paperwork in front of them to initial, date, and sign. When it comes to selection of sports agents, making the wrong decision can become a regretful mistake. A sport agents' primary job is to look out for the immediate interests of his or her client. It is to ensure the long term viability of the client so that they can maximize their overall earning potential for as long as they possibly can. That may mean passing on some deals or teams, holding out, or even sitting out if it’s in the clients’ best interest to do so. But the reality is, that every agent also has to protect his or her own business interests as well. This often comes into play when agents are handling rookies during their first attempts to finalize a pro contract.
As we speak, hundreds of young men are preparing for the NFL Draft coming up in a few short weeks. Undoubtedly numbers of them have demanded that their agents cover the costs of the pre-draft preparation. This was not always the case and some have said this phenomena of agents shelling out thousands of dollars before the client has even started talking to teams began about a decade ago. Now it is common place for training facilities, trainers, meals and meal prep, transportation, housing, entertainment, and other items and/or services be paid for upfront by the players’ agent. Most agents have to comply with these demands or they risk losing the client. This may make sense to some readers on some level. If the agents are trying to lure kids to their agency, then perhaps they should be willing to do everything in their power to make sure their client is in the best possible draft position possible.
Here is the problem. Agents don’t get paid until their clients do. One of the benefits of being a certified FIBA agent is that we can often negotiate our agent fees be paid directly from the teams themselves. Other sports don’t have those arrangements and agents have to collect their fees directly from the players themselves. This is where the player contracts become so important. Players need to understand that most experienced agents have done their due diligence. They have already calculated the risks and built those costs into the overall recruiting budget. They have spoken to the teams and have a general sense of where the player is getting drafted or if the player is getting drafted at all. If a rookie salary cap is involved, they have worked out the slots. And best believe they have had their contracts reviewed and vetted by seasoned professionals.
Players need to understand that the upfront cash that these agents have kicked out are more akin to “interest-free” loans (usually counted as expenses) as opposed to gifts given out of the kindness of their hearts. A player needs to understand how, when, and under which circumstances those “loans” are paid back. It must be a gut-wrenching feeling for a young man to work as hard as he does to even make it to a pro-training camp only to have his first couple of paychecks used to pay back his agent. This causes more problems and can lead to agents getting fired and eventually suing their clients. If players are demanding that the agents pay up, they need to make sure that the agent paid for actual necessities and not for a lifestyle that hasn’t yet arrived. There will be plenty of time to enjoy the fruits of a player’s hard work and talent. And a player definitely needs to know what’s in his or her contract and be very careful about these “pay to play” attitudes; they can come back to bite you.
Garrick Farria, esq.
I'm an attorney in Fort Worth Texas, married father, a Brazilian Jiu Jitsu Hobbyist, and I love dogs! I'm also a certified FIBA agent and currently represent over 20 professional basketball players through Aspire Sports Management.