As sports has grown into a multi-billion dollar industry, there has been an explosion in the
number of lawyers who specialize in sports law. There has been an understandably
significant increase in the number of persons desiring to represent professional athletes.
This increase can be explained by the high-profile status of sports and the tremendous
The concept of a sports agent representing professional or amateur athletes is a
relatively recent phenomenon. As recently as twenty years ago, few athletes employed
sports agents. Instead athletes would rely on lawyers or family to negotiate their contracts.
However, since the late 1960’s and early 1970’s, sports agent representation of athletes has
greatly expanded due to the large amounts of money athletes can make and their in ability
A college degree is not absolutely necessary to be a sports agent. Many successful
agents skipped college to persue their career. However, a college education does aide in
getting clients. A sports law degree is offered at some law schools to those who want to
specialize in being a sports agent. A prospective agent may also have a sports
administration degree and contacts to help him begin his career. A frequently asked
question is how does a lawyer become involved in the field of sports law and athlete
representation. A variety of firm or individual contacts may offer avenues into the field.
Connections arise from a number of sources, including representing parents of players,
representing unions and representing team doctors. Agents may also represent persons
holding an equity interest in the ownership of a team. An opportunity for employment
also exists as part of a college or professional sports administration.
The expansion of sports agents can be attributed to a combination of social
and economic developments. First, increased popularity of sports has resulted in greater
media coverage of athletic events. As a result, advertising and other commercial activities
have generated increased revenues for professional sports teams and, consequently,
demands from athletes for a portion of this revenue. Second, competition for an athlete’s
services from new competitive sports leagues has provided athletes with greater
bargaining power and leverage when negotiating their salaries. Third, through the process
of free agency, athletes have the freedom to leave the sports team that originally selected
them and sign with another team. Because athletes generally do not have the training or
experience to deal with these social and economic developments, many athletes hire sports
agents to draft and negotiate their contracts with professional sports teams, to plan
financial and endorsement endeavors, and to interpret collective bargaining agreements.
The two main duties of a sports agent are recruitment and contract negotiation. A
common method of obtaining clients is by using personal contacts, friends and other
athletes to meet professional athletes. The more sports figures you know, meet and
represent, the better the chance of engaging some as clients. Knowing college coaches is
an obviously beneficial way to obtain clients. Success and good publicity also broaden
avenues of opportunity for sports lawyers.
The negotiation of contracts is just a small part of what it is that sports agent do.
Once a contract negotiation is up you won’t do another contract for that person with that
entity for another 7 years sometimes. What are you suppose to do then? What you do is
“personal management.” Make sure your athlete is prepared for today, tomorrow, and 5
years from now. Many people do not understand exactly what a sports agent does. Here
is a break down of the duties of a sports agent:
PREPARATION FOR PLAYING PROFESSIONAL ATHLETICS
o An all inclusive workout program; providing the best trainers available.
o Coordinating of individual workouts
o Selection of post-season bowl games
o Discussions with interested team personnel
o Draft positioning; tryouts with teams; recruiting out of college athletes
Representation of all grievances, hearings, or appeals
Collective bargaining agreements, in the context of professional sports, are contracts
between management and the players’ union which govern the working relationship
between the two parties and the players. These agreements contain a surplus of rules,
regulations and contract provisions.
Contract negotiation. There are three important characteristics which are shared by
successful negotiators. First, the representative must be completely informed about the
negotiations. Second, the representative must maintain the client’s needs and
objectives. Third, the representative must choose an effective strategy and negotiate
diligently to achieve the client’s goals.
Assistance with termination and severance pay
Counseling; With so much attention being paid to their athletic abilities very little time
is spent with the individual person who is “inside” the athlete. There are various issues
that athletes may face that they need an empathetic ear for. This can go from family
issues, to financial, to team problems, or just plain ” I need someone to talk to”
Assistance in collecting career-ending/disability insurance proceeds
Arranging for medical assistance and second opinions from the foremost specialists in
all of sports. Including surgeons and physical therapists.
Planning for post-athletic career; coaching; broadcasting; color analyst
Contacts with established individuals and companies in a desired field
Press releases; promoting the player
Television and radio exposure; writing or planning interview dialogue
Arranging local and national interviews
Retaining of specialists when needed or required
Endorsements with national and regional companies
Reviewing and advising on home, automobile and other purchases
Arranging for and consultation with outside counsel when necessary
Negotiating and drafting endorsement contracts
Assisting with family law matters, wills, and estate planning
Preparing all federal, state and local tax returns by an independent accounting firm,
whose sole purpose is tax and accounting issues
Using a tax planner so that clients can anticipate tax consequences of each investment
Advising the client and club during the year of the proper amount to be withheld from
each check so that the client does not have to make a significant payment at tax time
Assistance in selecting financial planners
A list of financial firms that have worked with our clients in the past or ones that we
A working relationship with your family financial planner or any financial planner or
Developing and exploring opportunities with local and national networks
Negotiating and finalizing details of positions
Enhancing other possible media opportunities
In addition to these social and economic developments, the expansion of sport
agent representation of athletes has brought along with it sports agents who have not
always acted in the athlete’s best interests. Such situations are especially prevalent in the
area of intercollegiate athletics. For example, the National Collegiate Athletic Association
(NCAA) prohibits a student-athlete from contracting with a sports agent while the
student-athlete is still in college and eligible for intercollegiate athletics. Sports agents,
however, frequently ignore NCAA regulations and secretly loan or offer money, cars, and
other valuable items to student-athletes in exchange for the opportunity to represent them
when the student-athlete’s intercollegiate eligibility expires. As a result of such conduct,
the intercollegiate careers of many student-athletes come to an abrupt end because they
must forfeit their remaining intercollegiate eligibility if the NCAA discovers that they have
contracted with sports agents. Furthermore, the reputations of the colleges that these
student-athletes attend suffer from the negative national publicity that occurs when
student-athletes lose their NCAA eligibility by contracting with sports agents.
In addition to their involvement in intercollegiate athletics, sports agents have also
not always acted in the athlete’s best interests in the area of professional athletics. Many
professional athletes have lost thousands of dollars because of improper financial
investments and advice made by their sports agents. Many sports agents’ inadequate
qualifications have led to their failure to act in the best interest of athletes, by causing
many intercollegiate careers to end and by improperly managing a professional athlete’s
financial affairs. When a sports agent agrees to represent an athlete, the sports agent
becomes the athlete’s career planner. Thus, the athlete places his economic potential in the
hands of his sports agent. Moreover, when a sports agent holds himself out as a career
planner, the agent is indicating that he/she possesses expertise in the area of athlete
representation. Sports agents, therefore, owe the athletes they represent both a fiduciary
duty to possess the necessary skill and diligence to adequately represent the athlete. Many
sports agents, however, breach these duties because they have not had the proper training
to adequately represent athletes. For example, sports agents are not required to have any
type of educational degree or any minimum level of training, skill, or knowledge in the
fundamental areas of athlete representation such as contract drafting and negotiating,
financial planning, and collective bargaining agreements. Although the various professional
players’ associations, the NCAA, and a number of state statutes have all attempted to
address the problems surrounding sport agent abuses, the professional players’
associations and many states will certify, license, or register sports agents who are not
necessarily knowledgeable or qualified to represent athletes. Consequently, athletes cannot
be assured that they are being represented by competent and trustworthy agents. Although
the number of sports agents who fail to act in the athlete’s best interests has increased,
causing many athletes not to employ them, a sports agent can prove beneficial to an
A sports agent can help an athlete’s performance by obtaining a fair and reasonable
salary for him from a professional sports team. Additionally, a sports agent can help an
athlete take full advantage of endorsements and public appearances, as well as set up tax,
financial, and investment plans. Moreover, sports agents and athletes often become valued
In an attempt to preserve these benefits and deal with sports agents who fail to act
in the best interest of the athletes they represent, a number of agencies within the sports
field have set up regulations to govern sports agents. The National Football League
Players Association (NFLPA), the National Basketball Players Association (NBPA), and
the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have all implemented guidelines
and regulations that govern a sports agent’s representation of professional athletes.
Additionally, the NCAA has established guidelines and regulations that govern the
involvement of sports agents in the field of amateur sports. Many state legislatures have
also passed legislation that regulates sports agent’s activities at both the professional and
amateur levels. While these various organizations and state legislatures have recognized
the need for regulating sports agents and have attempted to remedy the situation, the
remedies that they pose are simply inadequate. Nevertheless, these attempted remedies
illustrate the problems involved in regulating sports agents and help provide an
understanding of the steps needed to control these problems.
Although there is heated competition to represent professional athletes,
there is only a small number of agents representing the majority of players. In light of these
numbers and with relatively few players in the potential client pool, the competition to
represent players is vigorous and at times unprincipled. Often an agent will need a
substantial number of professional athlete clients in order to achieve financial stability or
success. Job security is not a certainty in this field of study.
Sports law will undergo fascinating and interesting changes in the years to come.
Professional sports are undergoing a transformation, as the nature and economics of the
games change. The outcome of this conversion is unclear. It is unclear how profitable
professional sports are in current economic conditions. The recent NFL antitrust cases
described a multi-million dollar salary payment to one owner and significantly
underestimated profitability for some teams. However, the evidence also shows that a
number of franchises are losing money based on reasonable accounting evaluations. In
contrast, the recent sales of the Baltimore and San Francisco baseball teams, the record
breaking sale of the Philadelphia Eagles and the competition for new franchises despite
their cost, reflect significant value of sports franchises.
Players and agents should concern themselves with recent trends and events in the
professional sports industry. For example, the enormous increase in salaries, free agency,
labor stoppages, and the rapidly emerging limits on TV revenues, ticket prices, sky boxes
and other revenue constitute significant considerations for players and their agents.
Additionally, teams from small cities have made extensive use of deferred compensation as
a means of competing with the salaries offered by teams in larger cities. The amount of
deferred compensation combined with the financial difficulties of some teams has reached
significant heights. Correspondingly, a player’s representative must consider seeking the
personal guarantees of financially responsible owners and the use of escrow for the player-
client’s full compensation when representing blue chip players and outstanding coaches.
My personal opinion is that sports agents have gotten a bum wrap. Sure they
maneuver their way to get what contracts they want, but that is their job. The agent is
only following and protecting the players wishes. Why should the public complain about
Why do I want to become a sports agent? My first reason is that sports have been
my life. I do not currently have the skills to play a professional sport. However, I do
obtain a strong business since and I am very strong at negotiations. My second reason is,
it is every young boys dream to meet sporting legends. Being a sports agent, I live that
fantasy. My third reason, the average minimum pay for a sports agent is between
$150,000 to $200,000. Some agents make even more than that. I do believe I can live off
Appenzeller, Herb. Sports and the courts. Charlottesville, VA : Michie, c1980.
Champion, Walter T. Fundamentals of sports law. Rochester, NY : Clark Boardman
Greenberg, Martin J. Sports law practice. Charlottesville, VA : Michie, c1992
Law of professional and amateur sports. New York, NY : C. Boardman, c1988- (Loose
Digeronimo, Theresa F. Robert Rules: Success Secrets from Americas Most Trusted
Sports Agent. September 1998.
Schubert, George W. Sports law. St. Paul, MN : West, c1986.RESERVE
Sports and law, contemporary issues. Charlottesville, VA : Michie, c1985.
The Sports lawyers journal. v. 1, no. 1 (Spring 1994)- Racine, WI : Sports Lawyers
Uberstine, Gary A. Covering all the bases, a comprehensive research guide to sports law.
Buffalo, NY : Wm. S. Hein, c1985.