SBJ/20050606/Labor & Agents

Jerry Rice open for offers on endorsement deals in Denver

Future hall of famer and new Denver Broncos wide receiver Jerry Rice would be interested in signing endorsement deals in the Denver area if the terms were right, Jim Steiner, Rice’s longtime agent, said last week.

A Denver-area heating and air-conditioning company has already called about a deal for Rice, unsolicited, but Steiner, head of SFX Sports’ football operations, does not know if that will work out. “They are in the smaller-size range in terms of revenue and can’t afford what Jerry’s market is,” Steiner said, though he declined to specify Rice’s asking price.

Rice took a veteran-minimum salary deal to play his 21st season in the league at age 42.
Many sports commentators have criticized Rice for taking a veteran-minimum salary deal with the Broncos to play his 21st year in the league at the age of 42. While his on-the-field skills may have waned, his marketing prowess remains strong: He recently tied for seventh place (with David Robinson, Wayne Gretzky and Cal Ripken Jr.) in a ranking of athletes’ Sports QScores, which measure fan interest.

Steiner was criticized by some in the sports media last month for sending a memo to all 32 NFL teams earlier this year. The subject of the memo, first reported on si.com, was, “The GOAT (Greatest of All-Time), Jerry Rice.” The memo said: “Jerry would like to make 2005 his last year in the NFL. Any takers?? Please call if you think there might be a fit!”

Steiner said he was “severely criticized” for sending out the memo. Many of the stories suggested it was somehow undignified for Rice to advertise his services. Some said he was begging for a job; others said or implied Rice had to advertise because there were no bidders.

Steiner said he did nothing wrong in sending the memo, as SFX Football and other agents routinely contact teams about the availability of players.

JOCKEY ADS UNDER FIRE AGAIN: The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority is scheduled to hold a hearing on June 16 at Churchill Downs to determine whether three jockeys who wore advertising on their pants during the May 7 Kentucky Derby violated state rules, according to Jim Gallagher, executive director of the KHRA.

Jeremy Rose, jockey of Afleet Alex, wore an ad for paradise-poker.com. Corey Nakatani, jockey of Wilko, wore an ad for Cash Call. Kent Desormeaux, jockey of Greeley’s Galaxy, wore an ad for Vestin.

Gallagher said that Desormeaux and Nakatani did not turn in paperwork, as required, prior to wearing the ads. He said Rose’s ad for paradisepoker.com was in violation of the rules in that it conflicted with Churchill Downs’ sponsor youbet.com.

The KHRA has the authority to fine jockeys up to $5,000 and suspend them for up to five years, Gallagher said.

Attempts to reach Nakatani and Desormeaux for comment were unsuccessful.

Jeremy Rose’s sponsorship with paradisepoker.com is under review.
Kelly Wietsma, marketing agent for Rose, said that he submitted the paperwork, as required, the Wednesday before the Saturday race. She said she waited until Friday morning to sign the deal with paradisepoker.com and Kentucky racing stewards did not alert Rose that they felt the deal was a problem until Friday afternoon, when the deal was already signed.

Wietsma added that Rose would not have worn the advertising if the stewards had provided a legitimate reason not to do so.

Meanwhile, Christopher Lasch, a Jockeys’ Guild attorney hired to defend the jockeys at the hearing, questioned the legitimacy of the new advertising rule.

Last year, federal Judge John Heyburn of Louisville, Ky., ruled in favor of five jockeys who argued that an old KHRA rule that prohibited jockey advertising because it was not in keeping with “traditions of the turf” was unconstitutional.

“This year, Kentucky passed what purports to be an emergency regulation governing advertising,” Lasch said. “There was no emergency. It was somewhat hastily passed.

“We have the same problem that we had last year: The Kentucky Horse Racing Authority seems determined to try to regulate jockeys’ speech that under the Constitution cannot be regulated,” he said.

Gallagher did not immediately return a phone call to respond.

Lasch said he has tried to talk to KHRA officials, without success.

“I think that unfortunately, we will end up in court again,” he said.

Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com.

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