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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
Maxx Sports Entertainment has signed former Arizona Cardinals general manager Rod Graves as well as several current NFL players for broadcast work.

The players are Detroit wide receiver Nate Burleson, Baltimore defensive lineman Chris Canty and free agent linebacker Bart Scott.

“Rod is a real likable individual who has been around the NFL for 30 years and brings a lot of credibility from the front-office perspective,” said Mark Lepselter, founder and president of New York-based Maxx, which specializes in representing broadcasters.

Former Arizona Cardinals general manager Rod Graves “brings a lot of credibility,” says Maxx’s Mark Lepselter.
Graves was let go by the Cardinals at the end of last year. He’d been Arizona’s general manager since 2007 and with the organization since 1997.

As for Burleson, Canty and Scott, Lepselter said the three have no plans to retire from the NFL any time soon but have hired him to start getting broadcasting opportunities now.

Agents say more and more players in multiple sports are hiring broadcast agents while they are still playing.

“Identifying players who are near the end of their career and signing them as broadcasters is an industry trend,” said Lonnie Cooper, founder and owner of Atlanta-based sports marketing and talent representation firm CSE, in an email. CSE counts sports broadcasters, coaches and MLB players among its clients.

A big reason for the development is that there are so many more opportunities for broadcasters than in years past. Networks are expanding their number of hours of sports programming as well as their platforms, including digital and radio. So while it used to be that just big-name players would get a chance for a second career in broadcasting, that dynamic is evolving, too.

“It’s been fantastic with the broadcasting industry, with all of the networks expanding their platforms,” Lepselter said. “There is a lot of competition in the marketplace, and it only helps our side of things, and the talent,” he said.

> JL SPORTS SIGNS NFL PROSPECTS: JL Sports, an NFL player representation firm owned by agent Joe Linta, has signed Harvard tight end/fullback Kyle Juszczyk, who impressed NFL talent experts at the Senior Bowl earlier this year.

Branford, Conn.-based JL Sports also signed Southern Illinois linebacker Jayson DiManche, Stony Brook running back Miguel Maysonet, California (Pa.) safety Rontez Miles, Virginia Tech linebacker Bruce Taylor, Michigan State offensive guard Chris McDonald and Iowa offensive tackle Matt Tobin.

Linta and JL Sports agent Tom Kleine will represent the players.

Linta has made a career out of signing players who were not highly rated but went on to become starting NFL players with long careers. Among them, Linta negotiated Super Bowl MVP and Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s six-year, $120 million extension last month. Linta said when he first started recruiting Flacco in college, Flacco was a projected seventh-round pick. (He ultimately was picked No. 18 overall out of Delaware in 2008.)

This year, Juszczyk and DiManche are getting the attention of some NFL clubs despite not being highly rated. Juszczyk has set up 11 pre-draft visits with teams, and DiManche has visits planned with a personnel director and several linebacker coaches after he recorded an 11-foot broad jump and a 39-inch vertical leap, Linta said.

CBS Sports senior NFL draft analyst Rob Rang said those numbers are impressive for a linebacker.

As for Juszczyk, Rang said, “I don’t know how to pronounce his name, but I’ll tell you, he’s a player. He played really well at the Senior Bowl and any time you have a player from Harvard or an Ivy League school play well, it opens up some eyes.”

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

Major League Baseball players received $131.8 million in checks from their union last year, more than $105 million of which had been withheld for several years prior to the union and MLB agreeing to a new five-year labor deal in November 2011.

The 2012 annual report for the MLB Players Association, filed last week with the U.S. Department of Labor, showed the large disbursement of withheld licensing money to players. The allocation, denoted as “special dues,” had been expected, since the MLBPA, like many sports unions, saves money from group licensing efforts during labor negotiating cycles and then distributes it once a collective-bargaining agreement has been reached.

The union’s executive board authorized the distributions in December 2011 and then made them Feb. 10, 2012. Veteran players in many instances received a total of $116,074 each. The funds also included a separate, regular distribution of 2011 licensing funds of $26.1 million.

The amounts, based on each player’s service time between 2005 and 2011, were far higher than the maximum individual licensing checks of $6,534 sent to players in 2011.

A similar situation occurred in early 2007 when the union distributed more than $67 million in “special dues refunds” that had been withheld before the last labor deal in 2006.

Union leaders said the practice of saving during labor deals will continue. “Historically, the union has maintained a collective-bargaining reserve, and we have begun to assemble a reserve for the next round of bargaining as well,” said Michael Weiner, MLBPA executive director.

Weiner, the union’s top leader since 2009, again earned $1 million in salary last year, continuing a practice held for years by his predecessor, Donald Fehr. The next-highest-paid union employees were senior adviser Rick Shapiro at $675,000; David Prouty, then chief labor counsel and recently promoted to general counsel, at $565,000; senior labor counsel Ian Penny at $510,000; and director of business affairs and licensing Timothy Slavin at $500,000.

The union’s revenue from “other receipts,” where licensing income is listed and itemized, was reported at $58.8 million, up 16 percent from the prior year and up 27 percent from 2010. Payments are credited in the years they are received and not earned, and the report, also known as an LM-2, is based on cash and not accrual accounting, so views into the financial state of the organization can be deceiving.

But the union for 2012 reported increases from many of its main licensees. Take-Two Interactive, maker of the troubled “MLB 2K” video game series, was again the union’s largest individual licensee, paying $16.3 million, up by nearly $1 million from 2011. Other major payments came from trading card licensee Topps at $9.6 million; Majestic parent VF Knitwear at $7.6 million; MLB Advanced Media at $5.6 million; and Sony Interactive Entertainment, maker of the video game “MLB: The Show,” at $3.8 million.

Next year’s union annual report should show significant changes in the Take-Two payments, because 2012 marked the final year of the company’s seven-year pact for baseball’s exclusive third-party video game rights. After initially planning to let the deal sunset without a renewal, the company returned to make “MLB 2K 13” this year on a one-year contract thought to be at much lower fees.

Research director David Broughton contributed to this report.