SBJ/20081215/Labor & Agents

MLB players’ share of leaguewide revenue at about 52 percent

Major League Baseball players received about 52 percent of leaguewide revenue last season, said MLB’s Rob Manfred, which would appear to leave baseball players with the lowest percentage of revenue among the Big Four team sports.

Under their respective collective-bargaining agreements, NHL players received 56.7 percent last season, NBA players about 57 percent and NFL players about 59 percent.

It is impossible to make an apples-to-apples comparison among the sports. Manfred, MLB executive vice president in charge of labor, and other industry experts have said one reason it is not fair to compare the percentage of MLB revenue paid to players to other leagues is that MLB clubs collectively spend hundreds of millions of dollars on player development for players in the minor leagues.

Still, MLB players in the early part of this decade received a much higher percentage of league revenue, in the high 50s to low 60s. In recent history, the number peaked in 2003 at 63 percent.

In 2002, MLB and the MLB Players Association agreed on a new collective-bargaining agreement that included a luxury tax provision, which Manfred has said affected the number. Manfred has told SportsBusiness Journal that the percentage of leaguewide revenue paid to players in the 2004 though 2007 MLB seasons ranged from 51 percent to 55 percent, although he would not say what percentage players received in each year.

The MLBPA declined to comment on the issue.

Marc Ganis, president of SportsCorp Ltd., who advises MLB, NFL and NBA clubs on business matters, said the percentage of league revenue going to players will be used by leagues in coming labor negotiations.

“The other leagues will be able to use the fact that baseball is paying 52 percent as a target to be achieved,” Ganis said.

Baseball also stands out as the only major league without a salary cap. Caps are something that leagues long have fought for and players unions have fought against, but Ganis said that thinking is changing. (SportsBusiness Journal reported in April that some NFL officials and NFL owners were considering operating the business in the future without a salary cap.)

Ganis said that NFL owners “have concluded themselves that they would be better off without a salary cap.”

The current NFL CBA expires in 2011, and if the NFL does not negotiate an extension to the collective-bargaining agreement before the 2010 league year, the 2010 season will operate without a salary cap.

NFLPA acting Executive Director Richard Berthelsen disputed the idea that killing the cap would save owners money.

“Our history shows when there is no cap and there is free agency, the owners are likely to spend a lot more,” Berthelsen said last week.

The Bears’ Israel Idonije
is a new addition to the
Rosenhaus Sports roster.

He noted that in 1993, the only year the NFL operated with free agency and without a salary cap, owners spent almost 70 percent of leaguewide revenue on players.

“One consequence of going to the uncapped year is the players would never go back,” Berthelsen said. “As [late NFLPA Executive Director] Gene [Upshaw] used to say, you could never unscramble that egg. If the owners are now choking on player costs, they will be choking a lot more without a cap.”

ROSENHAUS SIGNS PLAYERS: Rosenhaus Sports, the NFL firm owned by brothers and agents Drew and Jason Rosenhaus, has signed Dallas Cowboys cornerback Mike Jenkins and Chicago Bears defensive tackle Israel Idonije for representation.

Jenkins was selected in the first round of the 2007 draft (No. 25 overall) and was represented by NFL agent Eugene Parker. Parker did not immediately respond to a phone inquiry. Idonije, an undrafted free agent, was formerly represented by D.S. Ping, who declined comment.

CODY TO PRIORITY: Priority Sports & Entertainment has signed Detroit Lions defensive tackle Shaun Cody, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, for representation.

Jimmy Wilkerson
has signed with
Harold Lewis’
National Sports

Cody, who was selected high in the second round in 2005, was the prize client that several agents vied to sign on “Super Agent,” a reality television show on Spike TV in 2005. He was formerly represented by veteran NFL agent Harold Lewis, who won that television competition.

NATIONAL SPORTS AGENCY ADDS WILKERSON: National Sports Agency, the firm owned by Lewis, has signed Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Jimmy Wilkerson for representation. Wilkerson was formerly represented by Athletes First. An Athletes First official did not immediately return a phone call.

OCTAGON SIGNS BOLEY: Octagon NFL agent Doug Hendrickson has signed Atlanta Falcons linebacker Michael Boley, who will become an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. He was formerly represented by Lock, Metz and Malinovic. An LMM official did not immediately return a phone call.

BEST GETS TENNIS’ OUDIN: Blue Entertainment Sports Television has signed up-and-coming tennis player Melanie Oudin, 17, for representation.

Oudin is ranked No. 178 on the Sony Ericsson WTA Tour and is the second-youngest player in the Sony Ericsson WTA Top 200, but she was the No. 2-ranked junior in the world before joining the WTA Tour. BEST Tennis client manager Sam Duvall will serve as Oudin’s primary agent.

Liz Mullen can be reached at

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