SBJ/June 30-July 6, 2014/Labor and Agents

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  • GSSM logs NHL coach, GM contracts, Singletary signing

    Gil Scott Sports Management has signed former NFL player and coach Mike Singletary and negotiated three NHL coaching deals and one general manager deal in the last several weeks.

    GSSM founder and owner Gil Scott negotiated recent deals for Barry Trotz to become coach of the Washington Capitals and for Mike Johnston to become coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. He also negotiated a deal for Jim Benning to become general manager of the Vancouver Canucks.

    In addition, Scott negotiated a two-year extension for Columbus Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards.

    Richards was an existing client, but Trotz, Johnston and Benning have all signed with Scott in the last two months. They were not previously represented by agents.

    Scott said he is interested in securing endorsements and speaking engagements for all of his NHL coaching and general manager clients in their new markets, as well as nationally.

    Singletary, a Hall of Fame linebacker for the Chicago Bears who has held NFL coaching positions, including head coach of the San Francisco 49ers, was hired last month as a senior adviser to Troy Vincent, NFL executive vice president of football operations, working in the league office. But Scott said Singletary is looking to make a return as a coach and hired him for coaching representation.

    “Mike is ready for his next opportunity to be a head coach in the National Football League,” Scott said. Singletary was formerly represented for coaching work by Bob LaMonte.

    GSSM is based in Toronto and represents about 10 NHL coaches and general managers, seven NFL players, and about 50 Canadian Football League players.

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  • NFLPA memo to agents part of rules review, not the result

    The NFL Players Association sent a memo to all NFL agents asking for information on any side agreements they have with players, including marketing guarantees and loans, but it is just one step in a review of the overall regulations governing contract advisers, said NFLPA President Eric Winston last week.

    The memo, sent to NFLPA-certified agents June 9, also informed agents that the union would double any discipline handed down for violations of the agent regulations, effective immediately. Additionally, the NFLPA said contract advisers must first advise player clients to consult with an NFLPA attorney before recommending to the player that he seek outside counsel.

    Winston, who was elected NFLPA president in March, told SportsBusiness Journal in April that the union would undertake a review of all the agent regulations. Last week, Winston said the memo was not the result of the review but rather part of the process.

    “This is kind of Step A,” Winston said.

    There has been no decision on whether to change the regulations, and there is no timetable to make a decision, Winston said last week. But he noted that the NFLPA has about half a year before agents start signing the next class of rookies, prospects for the 2015 draft. (Agents typically start signing rookies in late December and early January.)

    Winston has said that players are concerned about the quality of representation in the agent community. Last week, he said the purpose of increasing discipline — both suspensions and fines will be doubled — is that players want to do all they can to prevent agents from breaking the rules while the review of the regulations continues.

    The NFLPA asked agents to report any “other agreements” because the union wants to get a handle on what is really going on with marketing guarantees, loans and other money that agents are giving to players and prospects.

    Agents have complained that the amount of money that agents are offering to prospective clients is increasing. Some say it is a financial inducement to sign the player. Inducements are prohibited under the regulations.

    NFLPA player leaders have heard the stories. “We haven’t made any determination on the validity of those issues,” Winston said. “This the first step in gathering all the information we can so we know what is going on, so that we can make some educated decisions.”

    The NFLPA already has a regulation requiring agents to send such agreements to the union. But in practice, many agents have not been diligent in their reporting, Winston said. 

    That has changed since the NFLPA sent the memo out to agents earlier this month. “It’s been great,” said Winston. “All the agents have been sending everything they have in.”

    The third point in the memo, in which agents are asked to recommend that their player speak to an NFLPA attorney before the player hires an outside attorney, is a matter of advocating for and serving players’ interests, Winston said. That includes advising them of the cost and benefits of hiring outside counsel.

    Any decision on a change in regulations would be voted on by the NFLPA’s Committee on Agent Regulation and Discipline. The new members of the CARD committee are Bengals guard Andrew Whitworth, Redskins safety Ryan Clark, Saints tight end Ben Watson, Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson and Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.

    > EXPLORING OPTIONS: Rookie New York Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and rookie Chicago Bears defensive tackle Ego Ferguson had been represented by Morgan Advisory Group, but as of last week, both were being represented solely by agent Zeke Sandhu, whose employment contract with Morgan Advisory Group expired.

    In early June, both Beckham, a first-round pick, and Ferguson, a second-round pick, terminated their contracts with Sandhu and Ryan Morgan, president and founder of Morgan Advisory Group. The two players then re-signed with Sandhu, whose three-year deal with Morgan Advisory Group expired in June. 

    Morgan said he was in talks with Sandhu and was hopeful the agent and the two players would rejoin the firm. Morgan noted that he and Sandhu both negotiated rookie deals for Beckham and Ferguson in May.

    Sandhu said in a text, “My contract has expired and I am considering the best options that will enable me to continue providing the best service to my clients and grow my business with the philosophies and principles I believe in and with the commitment to representing the players the right way.” He did not say what those options might be, but he said he represents about a dozen other NFL players.

    Liz Mullen can be reached at lmullen@sportsbusinessjournal.com. Follow her on Twitter @SBJLizMullen.

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  • Roc Nation’s Miale moves beyond ‘negativity’

    Miale has worked on marketing deals for Roc Nation athletes beyond her NFL clients.
    Photo by: ROC NATION
    About a year ago, Roc Nation Sports agent Kim Miale was at the center of an NFL Player Association investigation into her signing of New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith.

    Rival agents complained to the union as well as to the media, alleging she had violated the “runner rule” because Roc Nation Chairman Jay Z attended a meeting with Miale and Smith before Smith signed. The agents, quoted anonymously, said Miale was able to sign Smith only because Jay Z was her boss.

    Media outlets nationwide carried stories when the union initiated the investigation last May. Jay Z even rapped about it on the “La Familia” track of his “Magna Carta Holy Grail” album, which came out in July.

    “I anticipated there would be some sort of interest when we signed Geno, but I did not anticipate the kind of negativity that went on,” Miale said.

    Kim Miale

    Company: Roc Nation Sports

    Title: Agent, attorney

    Age: 35 

    Certified by: NFL Players Association, National Basketball Players Association

    Education: Providence College, Suffolk University School of Law

    Clients: New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks, Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown

    The NFLPA in December cleared Miale of any wrongdoing. “Of course, the stories that we actually didn’t violate any of the rules were few and far between compared to the stories that initially came out,” she said. Under NFLPA regulations, only certified agents can recruit players. The NFLPA cleared Miale, however, issuing a memo to agents saying that noncertified associates could meet with the potential client if the meeting took place at the agent’s place of business.

    As for the rival agents, Miale saw them at the Super Bowl and at the NFLPA’s agent meetings earlier this year. “I went to the combine and the agent seminar as well,” she said. “It’s interesting because I was with a lot of the male agents I think that may have said a lot of things off the record or anonymously, but when I was there no one approached me.”

    Miale said she knew that the NFLPA’s attorneys investigating the situation would find “we didn’t do anything wrong.” But, she added, “It was definitely a challenge at the time.”

    Miale took some hits in the media during the investigation but did not speak out then. She agreed to an interview, the first she’s done, only after multiple requests were made to Roc Nation Sports over the last year.

    She has moved on from the episode and is signing new NFL clients as well as working on endorsement deals for other Roc Nation Sports athletes.

    Miale now represents three NFL players — Smith, Indianapolis Colts wide receiver Hakeem Nicks and Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown — for playing contract as well as marketing work. She co-represents Nicks and Brown with CAA Sports’ Tom Condon. All of Miale’s clients contacted Roc Nation Sports after leaving their previous agents, she said.

    Miale made news when she signed New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith as a client for Roc Nation Sports.
    Photo by: ROC NATION
    Roc Nation Sports was launched as a partnership with CAA Sports in April 2013, and Miale was hired soon afterward. She was certified by the NFLPA in 2009 and had represented some undrafted free agents both on her own and as a consultant for Madison Avenue Sports & Entertainment, but had no players active in the league when she was hired.

    In a male-dominated business known for its machismo, Miale, 35, is a bit of an anomaly. She is not a big talker or the loudest voice in the room, but when she speaks, she is thoughtful, straightforward and all business. In an hourlong telephone interview, she didn’t shy away from any questions, but she didn’t offer a lot about herself, either.

    Asked whether he would describe her as shy and soft spoken, Roc Nation Sports President Juan Perez said, “She seems that way, but she’s not.”

    Perez hired her instead of many other applicants, including NFL agents with more experience and clients, because he liked that she was a litigator, could negotiate endorsement contracts and was certified to negotiate NFL player contracts, as well. “I didn’t want someone who brought just one thing,” he said.

    Perez said he also liked that she hadn’t worked for a long stint at a company with an ingrained culture.

    “I wasn’t looking for a guy or a girl who had 20 years of experience,” he said. “I wanted some new blood, some fresh blood. And with the experience that CAA has, we thought, ‘We’ll put that together and it will be great.’”

    At Roc Nation Sports, in addition to representing NFL players, she has worked on contracts for Robinson Cano’s endorsements with Wilson, Alaska Airlines, Panini and Topps; Kevin Durant’s deals with Kind Healthy Snacks and 2K Sports; and CC Sabathia’s deals with New Era, Topps, Sony and DirecTV.

    The two adjectives that Perez and three others interviewed for this article used most often to describe Miale were “smart” and “hardworking.”

    Kristen Kuliga, a veteran NFL agent and sports law professor at Suffolk University Law School, taught Miale as a student and hired her as an intern at her Boston-based K Sports & Entertainment in 2003.

    “I think she listens more than she is probably going to talk, and she retains the knowledge of the people around her,” Kuliga said. “She doesn’t need to be the center of attention, but when she says something, it’s profound and it’s what needs to be said.”

    Miale interned two semesters and a summer at K Sports, working on deals for former quarterback Doug Flutie, who was an active NFL client of Kuliga’s at the time. As an intern, she worked on Flutie’s Reebok deal, including making revisions to the draft and doing market research, as well as appearance contracts, among other things, Kuliga said.

    Miale grew up in Rhode Island and went to school at Providence College before going to law school in Boston. She served a one-year judicial clerkship with the justices of the Connecticut Superior Court before being hired by a Boston law firm. She was recruiting NFL players as a consultant for Madison Avenue Sports & Entertainment when the company decided to disband its representation division. Founder Joe Tacopina introduced Miale to Perez and Roc Nation Sports vice president Rich Kleiman.

    Miale was certified recently by the National Basketball Players Association to represent NBA players in contract work and plans to recruit NBA clients. She is also in different stages of talks with companies for about a dozen new deals for Roc Nation Sports clients, she said.

    “I want to just work hard for my players,” Miale said. “I don’t want to work for too many of them so I am not able to give them the individual attention that I am able to give them now.”

    Smith, responding to questions by email, said that he talks to Miale often and that the fact she is a woman in a male-dominated business was not a factor in his hiring her. “She is talented and does her job well and that’s what I care about,” Smith said. “She is fearless and knows the game — so I know I am in good hands.”

    Miale worked with Condon on Nicks’ one-year, $4 million deal with the Colts this past offseason.

    “She did most of the background work,” Condon said. “Looking at the teams and making the determination of which teams would have a need [for a wide receiver], what their salary cap situation looked like.” He said that they shared the work of contacting the teams and doing the deal and that he was impressed with her smarts.

    “Besides being intelligent and hardworking and quick on the uptake, she cares about the clients very much,” Condon said. “Obviously she is in a tough business for a woman and she seems to be making a lot of strong progress.”

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