LEEInks list: Athletes without agents
|06.02.10 at 7:47 am ET|
On Sunday, Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss announced that he would be parting ways with his agent of the past 12 years, Tim DiPiero. In making the announcement, Moss made it clear that he would represent himself in contract negotiations and endorsement deals for the immediate future. The very next day, Moss told The Boston Herald that he was in the process of finding an agent to help him get “off-the-field money.” Credit is due to Moss, though, because the art of negotiating and being an agent can command big bucks and it certainly isn’t for the faint of heart.
Each of the four major sports is filled with hundreds of agents, all looking to grab a piece of the pie. In each one there are agents that dominate the market, snatching up the best clients. In hockey there’s Don Meehan, who represents over 100 hockey stars in the United States and Canada. Basketball has Arn Tellem, a man who also has dabbled in baseball to bring his total number of clients higher than any other agent in the business. A person can’t listen to SportsCenter without hearing the name of football agent Tom Condon at least once, although Drew Rosenhaus will always try to clown his way into the picture. And of course, the king of the sports agents is baseball’s Scott Boras, who has revolutionized every sport’s free agent system with his method of driving up salaries beyond a player’s worth. Hollywood has even idolized the agent industry with productions like the film “Jerry Maguire” and the HBO show “Arli$$.”
Of the few sports stars who have worked for themselves in the negotiating room, the list includes Dave Stieb, Mike Singletary, Daunte Culpepper and Ricky Williams. Gene Upshaw, who used to play for and negotiate his own contracts with the Oakland Raiders before becoming the executive director of the players association, was quoted as saying, “[We at the NFLPA] try to provide the tools for players to [negotiate their own contracts]. Some players have the ability to do it. They have unique relationships with the owners to do it.”
In honor of Moss’ lofty ambitions, we put together a list of notable athletes in Boston and around the nation who had the courage to represent themselves and take the bull by the horns.
Schilling had never been a free agent until 2007, and when it came time at the end of his career, he didn’t have an agent. He decided he would represent himself and he told the readers of his blog the blunt process of filing for free agency, “Place a phone call to the MLBPA, tell them you want to become a free agent, hang up.”
Also, when Schilling negotiated his trade to the Red Sox in 2004, he managed to sneak in a triggering clause that would give him extra money if the Red Sox won the World Series with him, which they did. A contract bonus based on team performance is illegal in baseball, but the commissioner’s office still approved it. Once MLB officials noticed the slip-up, they banned the provision from appearing ever again. Schilling ended up saving over $3 million in fees by dealing with the contract himself.
In being Robert Kraft’s loyal son for the entirety of his 12-year career with the Patriots, Bruschi never found the need to have an agent until the end of his career, when he asked local representative Brad Blank to serve as an adviser. Bruschi has had a booking agent for the past several years, though.
After a successful rookie season with the Sox, Greenwell successfully negotiated his own contract, which contained a $25,000 bonus for making the All-Star team (he did, twice). After that, he planned to negotiate for himself again, but he brought an agent with him for safety’s sake.
Long before his Celtics years, Allen was the Bucks franchise. When it came time to negotiate a new contract, Allen represented himself and ironed out a $70.9 million contract — the most a third year player could receive — with Bucks owner and U.S. Senator Herb Kohl. Instead of “skimming a few million off the top” for a middleman to do the work, he paid famous attorney and personal friend Johnnie Cochran to read over the contract for $500 an hour. Allen figured out that he saved around $2.8 million by not paying an agent the customary 4 percent. Since then, however, Allen has switched gears and hired Lon Babby as his agent.
In 1986, when Ainge re-signed with the Celtics, he decided to forgo outside representation and take offers himself. He agreed to a six-year, $4.1 million deal and saved from having to pay an agent $160,000. However, the contract left him well under the league average during the final three years of the contract. At the end of his career, he would negotiate a three-year, $5.2 million deal with the Suns. He didn’t even hesitate. “It couldn’t have worked out any better,” he told The Boston Globe.
Being a negotiator helped out Ainge in other ways as well. He now serves as president of basketball operations for the Celtics and helped obtain Allen and Kevin Garnett in 2007, turning the C’s from basement dwellers to NBA champions in the matter of one year.
Wells didn’t negotiate contracts with all of his nine teams (we wouldn’t even want to imagine who would want to), but there was one instance where he did work for himself. In 2001, his agent reached an oral agreement with the Diamondbacks, but Wells decided to go to a lunch with his former owner, George Steinbrenner. Because of Wells’ well-known lifelong passion for the Yankees, Steinbrenner offered him a two-year contract right there on the spot. Wells controversially backed out of his agreement with Arizona and signed the Yankees contract he negotiated.
“Tom Terrific” had the fortune of becoming a free agent during the infancy of free agency in baseball. In 1975, Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally became the first baseball free agents, breaking the long held tradition of the reserve clause. Because of Seaver’s “greedy” demands, according to the New York Daily News’ Dick Young, Seaver talked his way into a midseason trade from the Mets to the Reds in 1977, and then talked his way back to the Mets in 1983. To his and the Mets’ surprise, the White Sox picked him up a year later in the 1984 free agent compensation draft. He would later finish out his career with the Red Sox in 1986, sitting out his final days as the Red Sox played the Mets in the ’86 World Series.
Olajuwon negotiated with the help of an attorney his own contract during the summer of 1986. “It was hard. It took the whole summer. But now I’m happy, and [Rockets owner Charlie Thomas is] happy, and that’s good business,” he told Sport magazine. In the end, Olajuwon got a 10-year, $20 million contract extension, but five years later he grew unhappy with the contract and hired an agent to sue the Rockets if they didn’t trade him.
Largent went from representing himself as an NFL wide receiver to representing Oklahoma’s 1st District. From 1994 to 2002, Largent served in the U.S. House of Representatives, getting re-elected three times. Appropriately, the Hall of Famer now is the head of a marketing and advertising firm in Tulsa.
A lifer in the Tigers organization, Trammell found the easy way to get a contract negotiation in 1980. Tigers general manager Jim Campbell recalls how the exchange went down: “Alan and [second baseman] Lou Whitaker grew up in our organization like two peas in a pod. Lou had signed a good multiyear contract negotiated by his agent the year before. One day in spring training Alan asked to talk with me. … I laid out Lou’s contract. Alan asked for some minor adjustments — money up-front.” Campbell agreed to the request and Trammell talked to his financial counselor and his wife. The next day, Trammell walked into Campbell’s office and said it would work. Trammell walked out of the office with a seven-year, $2.8 million contract.
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