by Luther Campbell III
Shark season has begun in college football. As teams prepare for the many bowls, sports agents are circling the players whom the NFL plans to draft. Unfortunately, many African-American players and their families are not equipped to negotiate. They are not business-savvy like some of the families of white football players.
For instance, Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel had his family’s lawyer, Bradley Beckworth, help him select his NFL agent. Two agencies handled the former Heisman Trophy winner’s endorsement deals. Beckworth told Bloomberg News in January that his job was to make sure Manziel was represented by agencies that are “committed to working together to provide his long-term security.”
African-American student-athletes who hail from poor neighborhoods don’t have the same resources. Often these players simply accept an agent’s word as gospel because players don’t have law degrees like the agents. Players find themselves in debt owing large amounts of money to agents or banks the agents took the athletes to.
The agents claim their three percent commission is non-negotiable when in fact the player can go lower. Agents also arrange financing with outrageous interest rates and fees for the players, putting them in debt before their first NFL game.
The problem is the NFL requires sports agents to have a law degree. Already, the league is putting a kid at a disadvantage. The NFL should follow the music industry’s lead and add a clause in every player contract that they should have separate legal representation to go over the contract.
Some minority-owned firms represent players in this position. One of the first was the Black Sports Association, which Rev. Jesse Jackson helped start in 1996. These days, African-American agents, like Henry Thomas, represent some of the nation’s highest-profile basketball athletes, including Dwyane Wade and Chris Bosh of the Miami Heat.
SOURCE: Miami New Times