Blog: Jay - Z Becomes a Sports Agent
The announcement that Jay-Z was moving from entertainer to sports agent seemed to take most people by surprise. But wait a minute, what’s the “E” in ESPN stand for? That’s right, “Entertainment.” The fledgling “World Wide Leader” knew at inception that sports was entertainment and vice versa. So much for surprise.
But don’t expect Jay-Z to be negotiating directly with the Yankees on behalf of Robinson Cano, the rapper’s first client. Those duties will be the responsibility of Creative Artists Agency (CAA), the well-known sports agency that has teamed up with Jay-Z. Nonetheless, Beyonce’s lesser half says he’s serious about becoming more than just a recruiter for another agent. He intends to become licensed by the NFL, NBA and MLB as soon as possible. But Jay-Z has some hoops to jump through first, especially with the NFLPA.
At one time the football players’ union was known as the easiest place to obtain an agent’s license. Their mantra was, “Just send money.” The NFLPA used the licensing process as a revenue generator rather than a serious effort to weed out incompetents. No more.
Jay-Z will have to sit for a test, which won’t be given again until next January, and show he has a graduate degree or prove that he has seven years of negotiating experience. The latter may be possible, given the entertainment deals he has been involved in over the years.
In the meantime, Scott Boras, Cano’s former agent, has been mum on Jay-Z’s intrusion on his turf. With the intersection of sports and entertainment, Cano won’t be the first big-market client Boras is likely to lose, whether to Jay-Z or others who can diversify an athlete’s earning power both during and after their playing career.
Post: NCAA President Takes HeatThese are not the best of times for the NCAA or its President, Mark Emmert. The governing body had been taking more heat than usual of late, and that says a mouthful. Criticism, all of it well deserved, has been pouring in from every corner imaginable, including politicians, lawyers, academics and its own members.
An organization that is charged with determining whether its members lack institutional control is seemingly itself out of control. The investigation of the University of Miami uncovered internal breaches of ethics that led to the dismissal of two ranking officials in the enforcement division. Which begs the question: Is this a one-time aberration or an ongoing practice that has only recently come to light?
In most organizations, the chief executive officer would assume responsibility for the organization’s failings and resign. Not only did Emmert fail to resign, but the NCAA Executive Committee recently gave him a Vote of Confidence. In the real world, that would be the kiss of death and signal an end to Emmert’s term as president. However, as even casual observers can deduce, the NCAA doesn’t operate in the real world, but rather on another planet of its own making, devoid of the normal rules, guidelines, and due process protections that normally exist here on earth.
While the NCAA has never been under more pressure than it is today, don’t expect major changes to occur anytime soon. And even if the governing body ceases to exist, the ultimate goal of many critics, another organization with similar traits would rise in its ashes.
Post: Jeffrey Loria's Days are NumberedHang in there, Marlins’ fans. Better days are coming. The only question is, how soon?
Loria is the despised owner of the Miami Marlins, who last year stripped the team of virtually all its star players. The purge came five years after convincing local politicians to finance a shiny new stadium in downtown Miami at a cost of over $2 billion when all the interest is paid on the debt. Loria was convinced that if you (the taxpayers) build it, they (the fans) will come. Instead, the Marlins had the lowest first-year attendance of any new stadium constructed in the modern era.
Loria and his stepson, team president David Samson, have succeeded in alienating baseball fans throughout South Florida with their ham-handed operation and insensitive public comments. Loria is likewise reviled in Montreal, having sold the Expos to MLB which in turn ushered the team out of Canada.
But this time, Loria has overplayed his hand. His partners in MLB are also fed up with his operation. He has made a mockery of the revenue sharing system, pocketing hundreds-of-millions of dollars rather than investing it in his franchise. Loria has also embarrassed MLB Commissioner Bud Selig, who campaigned for the Marlins’ new stadium, while at the same time poisoning the waters for other MLB teams wishing to obtain taxpayer subsidies in the construction of new ballparks.
The guess here is that behind the scenes Bud is wielding the bully pulpit to the extent he can in an effort to pressure Loria to sell the franchise to a new owner. Although there is no timeframe for that move, the day when Loria becomes the ex-owner of the Marlins is coming.
Post: Jerry Buss: The NBA’s Bill VeeckWhen Jerry Buss died last week at the age of 80, the NBA lost more than one of its owners. It lost the man who made the league what it is today.
When Buss purchased the Lakers, the Kings, and the Los Angeles Forum - along with a 13,000-acre ranch – from Jack Kent Cooke in 1979, the league was all but irrelevant. Buss set out to make the Lakers the hottest show in Hollywood. He introduced the Laker Girls and other entertainment designed to attract fans and to keep them entertained throughout the game. To Buss, sports was synonymous with entertainment. And along the way, the Lakers also managed to appear in 16 NBA finals, winning ten. They won more games than any other team during Buss’ tenure and are the most successful franchise in the history of the league.
Jerry Buss was to the NBA what Bill Veeck was to MLB, an everyman’s owner and marketer extraordinaire. He was also a visionary who wanted to win as much as entertain. Buss was known as a players’ owner who hired the best minds available - former GM Jerry West and former coach Phil Jackson come readily to mind – to run his franchise, paid them well and then stayed out of the way and let them do their jobs. There wasn’t a player in the league who didn’t want to play for the Lakers and Buss.
Like Veeck, Buss was one of a kind.
Post: Feds Join Armstrong SuitThe Justice Department has decided to join Floyd Landis’ suit against disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong.
Landis filed his suit under the False Claims Act, which allows private citizens to act as whistle-blowers and sue to recover money allegedly obtained from the federal government through fraud. If successful, the plaintiff is allowed to keep up to 30% of the amount recovered if the government elects not to join in the action and up to 25% if the government joins the suit.
The addition of the government adds some firepower to Landis’ claims. He no longer has to finance the suit out of his own pocket and thanks to taxpayers, the government’s resources are unlimited. But that doesn’t mean the suit is now a slam dunk. There are a number of legal and evidentiary hurdles the government must overcome, including whether the U.S. Postal Service – the agency that sponsored Armstrong’s cycling team – was damaged by Armstrong’s use of PEDs. Armstrong’s attorneys maintain that the USPS received more than a $100 million in publicity during the years Armstrong was winning the Tour de France. That figure is significant because although the USPS paid $30 million to sponsor Armstrong’s team, the False Claims Act allows the plaintiff to recover treble damages.
This is a suit that cries out for a settlement. Armstrong still has his supporters and selecting an impartial jury will be problematic. On the other hand, Armstrong can’t afford a judgment that could wipe out his fortune, not after losing all of his sponsors when the United States Anti-Doping Agency issued its scathing report last fall that claimed the cyclist lied for years about his drug use.
Post: Billy Hunter’s DemiseIf the allegations against NBPA executive director Billy Hunter are true, he should consider himself lucky if he only pays with the loss of his job. The NBA players union voted to oust Hunter on Saturday, following a unanimous vote of the executive committee during the annual All-Star break.
In January, an independent law firm hired by the players association released a scathing report of Hunter’s conduct during the time he led the union. Among the findings were instances of nepotism, ratifying his contract without union approval, taking excessive vacation time, investing union funds in his son’s bank, and using union funds to purchase gifts for union members. In the wake of the report, Hunter fired family members from their posts, reduced his own powers, and made changes to union regulations. But for the players, it was too little too late.
Not since Alan Eagleson ran the NHLPA as his own personal fiefdom has a sports union leader acted as unethically as Hunter has. The loss of his job may be only the beginning for the embattled labor leader. The feds will likely review the law firm’s report to see if any federal laws have been violated. If a federal prosecutor elects to convene a grand jury, Hunter’s freedom, along with his paycheck, may also be in jeopardy.
Post: Pistorius Charged With MurderThe news that Oscar Pistorius, the South African double-amputee nicknamed the blade runner, has been charged with murdering his girlfriend shocked the world.
As the first double-amputee to compete on the world stage against able-bodied runners, Pistorius was an inspiration to millions of handicapped people when he participated in last summer’s London Olympics. Now, Pistorius is facing life in prison for the shooting death of his model girlfriend. Should we be surprised? Hardly.
Although Pistorius competes on carbon fiber legs, he is human in all other respects, good and not-so-good. He bleeds, cries, and shows emotion just like anyone else, with or without artificial legs. And yes, that means Pistorius is capable of committing crimes, just like other members of society do. We tend to hold athletes up as role models, somehow different than the average person. They aren’t. Pistorius follows in a long line of athletes, including the likes of Lance Armstrong and Tiger Woods, who have succumbed to the basic human instincts of lust, greed and jealousy.
The cause of disabled athletes – and disabled citizens around the world – should not be judged or evaluated based on Pistorius’ fall from grace. He’s the exception. That was true when he was out-running able bodied athletes and it’s true today, as he faces the biggest challenge of his life.
Post: University of Texas’ Athletic Revenue 2011-12In another example of the rich getting richer, the latest NCAA financial report shows the University of Texas generated a staggering $163.3 million in revenue for 2011-12. That figure is $13 million greater than the comparable figure for the previous year. UT also reported a $25 million operating surplus (revenue over expenses). The athletic department transferred $8.3 million of their surplus to the university’s operating budget. Included in the total revenue figure is $103.8 million from football alone. It was the first time in history that an institution reported more than $100 million in revenue from one sport. Texas is only one of ten schools in Division I that generated enough revenue to cover expenses in 2010-11, without relying on some form of subsidy.
To put the Longhorns’ windfall in perspective, the $25 million operating surplus is more than 135 of the approximately 220 Division I public institutions spent on their entire athletic programs in the previous year (2010-11).
So, how do other institutions compete with the Longhorns? The short answer is: They can’t, at least not in finances. But fortunately, games are won and lost on the field of play, not in the accounting department. Texas’ football team finished with a record of 5-7 in 2010 and 8-5 in 2011. Post: Armstrong Sued by SCAThe legal fallout from Lance Armstrong’s doping admission has begun. SCA Promotions, Inc., the Texas company that insures sports promotions, has brought suit to recover $12 million in bonuses, interest and legal fees it paid for Armstrong’s 2002-04 Tour de France wins.
SCA initially refused to pay Armstrong’s management company, Tailwind Sports, Inc. $5 million in performance bonuses. Tailwind brought suit against SCA and as part of the litigation, Armstrong swore under oath during a deposition that he had never used PEDs. Despite the fact Armstrong retracted that denial in a televised interview with Oprah, SCA has an uphill battle to recover the $7.5 million it paid Tailwind, plus interest on that amount.
First, the insurance contract was between Tailwind and SCA, not Armstrong. Because he was not a party to the contract, Armstrong has no obligation to SCA. Second, the settlement in the case included the standard language that SCA made payment in full satisfaction of the claim and the case could not be reopened by either side.
Given those realities, it is highly unlikely that SCA will recover against either Tailwind or Armstrong. However, Armstrong may settle the suit at some point to avoid further litigation and publicity, assuming SCA is more interested in recouping a portion of the settlement than it is in “proving” Armstrong lied under oath, something he has already admitted to doing.