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Volume 20 No. 42

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
J ay-Z is now certified with the National Basketball Players Association to negotiate NBA player contracts with clubs, according to Robert Gadson, NBPA director of security and agent administration.

In June, the NBPA agreed to certify Jay-Z, whose real name is Shawn Carter, pending verification that he had divested his small ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets. Gadson said last week that the union had received confirmation that Jay-Z had sold his stake in the team. “I have a signed letter that he divested his interest in the Nets,” Gadson said of Jay-Z. “He is now eligible to negotiate on behalf of NBA players.”

Gadson declined further comment. An official from Jay-Z’s agency, Roc Nation Sports, declined to comment.
Jay-Z agreed to sell his less than 1 percent share in the Nets to new Brooklyn coach Jason Kidd, according to published reports.

Two other Roc Nation Sports executives, president Juan Perez and vice president Rich Kleiman, are certified by the NBPA. Roc Nation Sports signed Oklahoma City forward Kevin Durant as its first NBA client in June.

> NBA AGENTS LEAVE LAGARDÈRE: NBA player agents David Bauman and Mitchell Butler have left Lagardère Unlimited, sources said, meaning the agency does not have a basketball player representation practice.
It is unclear if the two agents were going to start their own firms or join existing agencies.

Bauman and Butler did not respond to requests for comment. A Lagardère official declined comment.

Prominent NBA agent Dan Fegan once led Lagardère’s large basketball representation practice, but Fegan left and joined Relativity Sports this year, bringing about 40 NBA players with him. Now both Bauman and Butler, who is a former NBA player, have left the agency in the last 60 days. Bauman’s clients include Golden State center Andrew Bogut and Milwaukee guard Gary Neal. Butler’s clients include Boston guard Avery Bradley.

> ASM SIGNS MEEKS: ASM Sports has signed Los Angeles Lakers guard Jodie Meeks for representation. ASM Sports NBA agents Andy Miller and Andrew Vye will represent him. Meeks formerly was represented by Bauman when he was at Lagardère.

> BEARS’ FORTE SIGNS DEALS: Chicago Bears running back Matt Forte has signed national endorsement deals with Muscle Milk, Lenovo and Duracell.

Adisa Bakari, Forte’s agent and chairman of the new sports entertainment group at national law firm Kelley Drye & Warren, would not reveal financial details of the deals but said the Muscle Milk agreement is two years in length and the Lenovo and Duracell agreements are both one-year deals, with options to extend.

Forte also counts Pepsi, Nike and Verizon among his sponsors. Bakari recently negotiated extensions for Forte with Pepsi and Verizon, he said.

Bakari, who represents 32 NFL players, recently joined Kelley Drye & Warren, which is based in New York. He previously worked as founder and president of the sports and entertainment division of Washington, D.C.-based Dow Lohnes.

> MVP SPORTS HIRES LICENSING EXEC: MVP Sports Group, a baseball player representation firm founded and owned by agent Danny Lozano, has hired Joe Vignier as vice president of licensing. Vignier, formerly director of sports licensing at Topps, will oversee all licensing business, including trading card deals, autograph signings and memorabilia deals, for MVP Sports Group clients, which include Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols, Cincinnati first baseman Joey Votto, St. Louis right fielder Carlos Beltran and Philadelphia shortstop Jimmy Rollins. Vignier will report to Lozano.

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

The Women’s National Basketball Players Association will be the second players union to use a mobile application to communicate with its members during negotiations for a new collective-bargaining agreement.

Through a partnership the WNBPA formed with this summer, WNBA players will be supplied with an app for their mobile devices that will allow communication between the union and the players about developments in talks.

The WNBA labor deal expires Sept. 30.

“The most direct way for us to communicate with the players as a whole is through their smartphones and tablets,” said Pam Wheeler, WNBPA director of operations, in a statement. “A WNBPA app gives us the capability to get both short-form and detailed information to the membership in real time while also providing the players with a means to communicate with the union in a variety of ways.”

The NHL Players’ Association is thought to be the first North American sports union to have developed such an app to communicate with its members about union business during collective bargaining. The NHLPA used its app, developed by Ontario-based Vayyoo, during the NHL lockout last year.

Kevin April, COO of, said the app for the WNBA players is similar to the one provided to the NHL players last year but also allows players to blog on the Internet platform. “There is an additional blogging component, where WNBA players can stay in touch with their fans through blogs,” April said.

The app also will allow WNBA players to communicate privately with the union, including enabling the WNBPA to poll players on their position on issues during the talks, April said.

“We expect, within the next 30 days, for all of the WNBA players to have it in their hands,” April said of the app.

The cost of developing the app was not disclosed. On the blogging component, WNBA players will share in the advertising revenue on the blog with, but April declined to reveal the revenue split between the company and the players.