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Volume 21 No. 2

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
The NFL may re-evaulate the timing of offseason activities that surround its annual draft, but any decisions on schedule changes would not come until after next May’s event, according to Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, who is chairman of the league’s influential competition committee.

The league announced last month that the draft, which has long been held in late April, would be moved back next year and held May 8-10. The reason for the change was a conflict at Radio City Music Hall, where the draft is held.

“I think what the league will do is take the input of the teams next year after they operate with a May draft and see what were the pros and what were the cons,” McKay said last week.

There have been reports that the NFL could change other events on its offseason calendar, as well, including the combine and the start of free agency. McKay acknowledged there has been talk of spreading out those events over the offseason, but he added, “Anybody suggesting there will be a permanent change in the league’s calendar beyond next year’s draft is simply speculating.”

The combine will be held next year in late February, about the same time it always is, even though the draft was moved two weeks later. Agents pay for prospects’ pre-combine training, and many are concerned that the event will be moved to a later date, which would mean more expenses for them as training is extended.

“I am concerned about speculation that the combine will be moved back three to four weeks beginning in 2015, and beyond,” said veteran agent Pat Dye Jr., president of Sportstrust Advisors. “Inevitably, that will entail an additional three to four weeks of pre-combine training expenses for the agent community. This may ultimately affect the quality of representation available to later-round picks, which is unfortunate.”

> IMG SIGNS SATURDAY, PIOLI: IMG has signed longtime Indianapolis Colts center Jeff Saturday (now retired) and former Kansas City Chiefs general manager Scott Pioli for representation in broadcasting work as well as speaking and other commercial endeavors. Sandy Montag, IMG senior corporate vice president and head of clients, will be the lead agent for both.

Montag would not say what deals he was working on for either individual but said both have the personalities, football knowledge and smarts that networks want in broadcasters.

He noted in particular the personality of Saturday, who retired this year after a 14-season NFL career that included a highly visible role as a team player rep. Saturday has long been well-regarded by his peers and was lauded for his leadership during the 2011 labor talks.

“It is kind of rare that a former center would have that kind of personality, and we look forward to working on various business endeavors for him,” Montag said.

Since his departure from the Chiefs at the end of this season, Pioli has done some broadcast work for NBC Sports Network, Sirius XM Radio and the NFL Network.

“Scott is a really intelligent former general manager, and we see tremendous upside for him in the broadcasting space,” Montag said.

> DUMERVIL UPDATE: The NFL Players Association has requested information from the Denver Broncos regarding the contract negotiation of former Broncos and current Ravens outside linebacker Elvis Dumervil to see if a violation of the collective-bargaining agreement occurred. Dumervil was cut by the Broncos on March 15 after the club reportedly missed a deadline to fax his renegotiated deal to the NFL. The club blamed Dumervil’s agent at the time, Marty Magid of MRM Sports & Entertainment, for missing the deadline, while Magid claimed the team was at fault. After being released, Dumervil left Magid and signed with Tom Condon of CAA Sports.

In a statement, the NFLPA said that “facts gathered thus far have raised serious questions about violations by the team of its good faith obligations under the CBA.”

Broncos spokesman Patrick Smythe responded via email: “It’s an internal matter that we prefer not to comment on out of respect for all parties involved.”

> NEW LOGO FOR ASM SPORTS: ASM Sports, the basketball player representation firm founded by agent Andy Miller, has rebranded the agency with a new logo to reflect its global reach.

The new logo depicts the ASM Sports moniker against the image of a globe. The graphics in the old logo were a basketball and a hoop.

Miller founded ASM Sports in 1999 with one office in Tenafly, N.J. The headquarters office is now in nearby Edgewater, N.J, but ASM Sports also operates 14 other offices around the world, including in Spain, Italy, Mexico and Argentina. The agency represents 40 NBA players and 70 pro players on teams in Europe and Asia.

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

In less than three months, the attitude in the established sports agent world toward Jay-Z and his Roc Nation Sports has changed from one of almost contempt to resignation, as agents acknowledge they are likely to lose some of their clients to the rap mogul. But along with a grudging acceptance over possible defections, there’s also an undercurrent of anger over the confusion that Roc Nation Sports has created in the marketplace.

Jay-Z’s new sports arm is easily the most talked about story within the small representation community, and agents refuse to publicly go on record for fear of upsetting or antagonizing the rapper and entrepreneur, who is also an icon to many of today’s athletes. But while they may not talk on the record, privately more than one agent called Jay-Z “a magnet” for players, one that is attracting star talent while also disrupting public perception of existing client relationships.

The latest move to rock the representation world came earlier this month, when Oklahoma City Thunder forward Kevin Durant left his agent, Rob Pelinka, after little more than a year. Although he was not an official client of Roc Nation Sports last week, multiple sources said it was just a matter of time until he would be.

That news brought a hush over the agent community. The 24-year-old Durant is seen as one of the most prized U.S. athletes an agent could build an agency around.

That has been the goal of Roc Nation, which announced April 1 that it had launched Roc Nation Sports, was partnering with CAA Sports and had signed Yankees second baseman

Robinson Cano as its first client. Since then, a spokesperson for Roc Nation Sports, who would not comment for this story, has said that the plan was to build “a full-service agency” by hiring agents certified to represent athletes in contract work in multiple sports, as well as certifying Roc Nation executives.

That process is continuing, but while Roc

Kevin Durant appeared in a Skullcandy spot with rapper and Roc Nation client Wale. Now Durant has left his agent, and reports have him joining Roc Nation Sports.
Nation Sports moves forward, there is a growing amount of confusion — and in some cases, anger — in the sports industry about just whom the fledgling agency represents and which athletes are part of its partnership with CAA Sports.

“The confusion comes in with what Roc Nation is doing for each individual client,” said Denise White, CEO of Entertainers & Athletes Group, which represents about 30 professional athletes for public relations and branding. “I don’t think it is clear who they are representing and what they are representing each player for.”

Roc Nation’s website listed three players last week as clients: Cano, WNBA Tulsa Shock guard Skylar Diggins and New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith. CAA Sports co-represents Diggins and Cano for marketing and contract work, but does not co-represent Smith.

Smith signed with Roc Nation Sports in May. Projected as a first-round draft pick by many analysts, he held interviews with several prominent NFL agents after waiting until the second round to hear his name called.

Smith had been represented by Select Sports Group, and two sources said he had signed a multiyear marketing deal with Select Sports Group. Select Sports agents did not respond to requests for comment.

Smith is now represented by Kim Miale, an NFL Players Association-certified agent who was hired by Roc Nation Sports in May.

Roc Nation may have brought on Miale because its executives could not get certification under NFLPA rules this year. The regulations require prospective agents to apply for and pass a test before they are certified, and the deadline to take this year’s test had already passed when Roc Nation launched its sports division. 

Last week, the NFLPA was investigating whether Miale violated an agent regulation known as “the runner rule,” which prohibits certified agents from using noncertified agents to recruit players.

The NFLPA began the inquiry after multiple NFL agents complained to the players union, sources said, asking it to investigate whether Smith signed with Miale because of contact with Jay-Z and whether that violated the rule. One agent acknowledged that agents were “leaning on the PA” to do something, and since the union had no authority over Jay-Z because he is not a certified agent, they wanted the union to punish Miale.

Rival agents are not worried about Miale, but “the agents are worried about the guy she is working for,” one said.

Smith has publicly stated that Jay-Z didn’t recruit him. Another agent who competed to sign Smith after he dropped Select Sports Group told SportsBusiness Journal that Smith did indeed want to be with Jay-Z.

In the case of Durant, multiple sources said the Thunder forward, who has aspirations to be a rapper and has performed under the rap name “Sniper Jones,” also wanted to join Jay-Z. Durant was not unhappy with Pelinka, these sources said. Durant signed with Pelinka and his agency, Landmark Sports Group, in April 2012, after leaving Goodwin Sports.

Pelinka negotiated endorsement deals for Durant with several brands, including with BBVA Compass, the NBA’s official bank; Unilever’s Degree brand; and headphone and audio equipment brand Skullcandy. Durant appeared in a Skullcandy commercial earlier this year with rapper Wale, who is represented by Roc Nation.

If Roc Nation Sports signs Durant, it is not clear whether he would also be represented by CAA Sports for contract work, because the agency employs a number of NBPA-certified agents. Under NBPA rules, players must wait 15 days before signing with a new NBPA-certified agent.

Another athlete who has been widely reported to be a client of Roc Nation Sports is New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Cruz is not listed on Roc Nation Sports’ website, but multiple media outlets over the last month have stated Cruz is on Roc Nation Sports’ client roster.

The Giants’ Victor Cruz is among those who’ve been reported on Roc Nation’s roster but are repped by others.
Some agents privately expressed irritation, and even anger, that Roc Nation was reported to be representing athletes who were apparently still clients of other firms. At the same time, agents wondered who was to blame for what appeared to be bad information.

Cruz is one of many athletes who is a personal friend of Jay-Z’s, but he is represented by IMG for off-the-field endeavors and by CAA Sports agent Tom Condon for contract work. Condon has been in talks with the New York Giants about a new contract for the restricted free agent wide receiver, while IMG last week confirmed that Cruz remains in the IMG fold.

“Victor Cruz is a happy client of IMG,” said Sandy Montag, IMG senior corporate vice president and head of clients. Montag wouldn’t discuss the reports that Cruz was a Roc Nation Sports client.

When Eagles wide receiver DeSean Jackson left his agent, Drew Rosenhaus, earlier this month, multiple news outlets reported in the same breath that he was likely joining Roc Nation Sports. EAG’s White, who represents Jackson for public relations work, said, “We have no idea where those reports came from at all.” Jackson’s firing of Rosenhaus was related to a dispute he had with Rosenhaus and not related to a desire to join Jay-Z’s agency, she said.

Jackson is in no hurry to sign with another agent, she added. But she acknowledged that when Jackson does conduct interviews for a new agent, he would be interested in meeting with Roc Nation Sports.

Other high-profile athletes linked with Roc Nation Sports as potential current or future clients include Brazilian soccer star Neymar.

Jay-Z’s move into the agent business has not just been covered by the sports media, but the entertainment and global media, as well.

“Now, every player who fires his agent is going to sign with Jay-Z,” groused one agent of the media coverage.

Individuals from Roc Nation Sports have inquired about the procedure to become certified to represent NBA players in contract talks, although they have not formally applied for certification, according to Robert Gadson, director of security and agent administration for the National Basketball Players Association.

Gadson declined to name the individuals from the company who inquired.

Meanwhile, the MLB Players Association, which has been reviewing the agent applications of Jay-Z, Roc Nation President Juan Perez and Vice President Rich Kleiman since April, was close to making a decision on whether to certify them.

“Our process is very near completion,” said Rick Shapiro, MLBPA senior executive, who oversees agent administration.

Individuals must be certified by a sports’ union to represent players in contract talks with clubs, but anyone can sign a player for marketing representation, which Roc Nation did in April by signing New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano as a client.

So far, the only certified playing contract agent known to be employed by Roc Nation Sports is NFLPA-certified agent Kim Miale. But the agency has made it known that it would like to have certified agents across multiple sports, as their efforts with the NBPA and MLBPA seem to indicate.