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Volume 20 No. 41

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
NFL Players Inc. has facilitated sponsorship deals that have produced payments totaling $22.6 million to players in the six months ended Aug. 31.

That amount is on pace to be an increase over last year, when NFL Players Inc., the NFL Players Association’s marketing and licensing arm, helped drive deals that paid players $31 million over 12 months, said NFL Players President Keith Gordon. The group’s fiscal year ends Feb. 28.

Gordon would not project a total amount for the current year that would be paid to players, but he noted that 10 percent to 15 percent of all appearances coordinated by NFL Players typically occur during Super Bowl week and that demand for player deals could increase this year because of the 2014 Super Bowl’s location in the New York area.

NFL Players helps sponsors identify which players to use to activate their deals with the league and reaches out to the players and their marketing representatives. Players’ marketing agents negotiate the deals for them, but NFL Players may negotiate the deals if the player doesn’t have a marketing representative.

The deals vary in size from one-off appearances and speaking engagements to national commercials. The group recently helped McDonald’s with national commercials featuring Baltimore quarterback Joe Flacco, San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick and New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. Representing the players in their agreements with McDonald’s were Tom Kleine of JL Sports (Flacco), Scott Smith and Shawn Smith of XAM Sports (Kaepernick), and Carlos Fleming of IMG (Cruz).

NFL Players has been involved in such deals for players for years, but there has been an added focus over the past few years on helping sponsors find players, Gordon said. The $31 million figure for the fiscal year ended Feb. 28, 2013, was up 18 percent from the previous year.
NFL Players has also recently hired Steven Scebelo as vice president of licensing and business development. He was formerly vice president of licensing at the NBA and MLB. Additionally, the group promoted Ahmad Nassar to executive vice president of business affairs and general counsel, and hired Ricky Medina as senior manager of business development. Scebelo and Nassar report to Gordon, and Medina reports to Scebelo.

> RELATIVITY SIGNS DICE-K: SFX Baseball, a division of Relativity Sports, has signed New York Mets pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka for representation. Mark Pieper, who leads the baseball division, will represent Matsuzaka, who had been represented by Scott Boras of The Scott Boras Corp.

Boras, asked for a comment, said in a statement, “Matsuzaka told us he left Boras Corporation to help one of his friends.”

> TAVARES RETURNS TO MDR (AGAIN): Top St. Louis Cardinals outfield prospect Oscar Tavares has returned for the second time in a year to MDR Sports Management, where he will be represented by Melvin Roman, president and CEO of the firm. Tavares, who underwent ankle surgery but is expected at spring training next year, had left MDR in August and was being represented by The Legacy Agency. Earlier this year, he’d left MDR for Rob Plummer & Associates for a few weeks only to return later to MDR.

> PBI SPORTS LAUNCHES HOOPS DIVISION: PBI Sports & Entertainment, a Toronto-based sports talent representation firm, has launched an NBA division by hiring Billy Owens, a former NBA forward/guard who was the No. 3 overall pick in the 1991 draft, as head of basketball operations.

Neil Glasberg, PBI Sports & Entertainment founder and president, was recently certified by the National Basketball Players Association to represent NBA players in contract talks with clubs. Glasberg founded PBI in 2008, and the firm has specialized in representing NHL and NFL coaches as well as broadcasters. Clients include Buffalo Sabres coach Ron Rolston; former NHL coach Marc Crawford, now coaching the Zurich Lions of the Swiss National A League; San Diego Chargers wide receivers coach Fred Graves; and Canadian Olympic gold-medal-winning figure skater Jamie Salé.

> BEASLEY JOINS A3: Allegiant Athletic Agency has signed Miami Heat forward/guard Michael Beasley for representation. A3’s Jared Karnes will represent Beasley. He was represented by Excel Sports Management.

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

Fired National Basketball Players Association Executive Director Billy Hunter received $1,995,887 in compensation in his last year on the job, according to the union’s annual report filed recently with the U.S. Department of Labor.

The report covers the 12-month period that ended June 30. Hunter was fired by a unanimous vote of NBA player representatives on Feb. 16, during the NBA’s All-Star weekend.

Billy Hunter was fired as executive director on Feb. 16.
Hunter’s total compensation amount includes $1,903,846 in salary, according to the filing. The balance of his compensation includes payments termed as “disbursements for official business” and “allowances disbursed.”

For the previous 12 months, ending June 30, 2012, Hunter received $3,159,553 in compensation, including a salary of $3 million. The decrease is believed to be the result of the NBPA halting payments to Hunter after he was terminated. Union officials would not comment, and Hunter’s attorneys did not respond to a request for comment.

Hunter was fired after a union-commissioned report found that he acted in his own interests, ahead of the players’ interests. That NBPA internal investigation cost the union more than $5.4 million in fees paid to law firms and other businesses.

According to the union filing, the NBPA paid $3,555,698 in legal fees related to its internal investigation to the New York-based law firm of Paul, Weiss, Rifkind, Wharton & Garrison. The union also paid $574,252 to Washington, D.C.-based Orrick, Herrington & Sutcliffe. Additionally, among other payments, the union paid $1,129,757 to Deloitte Financial Advisory Services, and it paid $56,604 in consulting fees related to the investigation to public communications firm Sard Verbinnen & Co.

After Hunter was terminated, Ron Klempner, longtime union counsel, was promoted to acting executive director. Klempner was listed as the second-highest-paid union employee at $306,305, including $295,629 in salary.

Total union assets reported were nearly $181 million, down from nearly $184 million for the year earlier.