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Volume 21 No. 1

Labor and Agents

Liz Mullen
A year after the NFL Players Association passed the “runner rule,” marketing agents and other employees at several major NFL player representation firms, including Rosenhaus Sports Representation, SportsTrust Advisors, Athletes First and Relativity Sports, were certified by the union.

The rule prohibits anyone but an NFLPA-certified contract adviser from recruiting NFL players and draft prospects. The rule went into effect June 1, 2012. After that, contract agents could not bring marketing agents, or any other employees who were not certified, to meetings to recruit new clients.

But over the summer, several marketing agents and other employees of NFL representation firms were certified and can now participate in recruiting NFL players and future draft prospects.

Those employees include Robert Bailey, longtime marketing representative and president of Rosenhaus Sports; Kevin McGuire, SportsTrust Advisors vice president of marketing; and Todd Sermersheim, vice president of sales at the football division of Relativity Sports. At Athletes First, Ryan Williams, vice president of marketing, and Carmen Wallace, director of research and promotions, were certified by the NFLPA.

“If you want your guys to help you with recruiting, they have to become certified,” said Drew Rosenhaus, founder of Rosenhaus Sports. “That is something we got done with Robert Bailey.”

Rosenhaus added that Michael Katz and Jason Katz, other longtime Rosenhaus Sports employees who are involved in client services, were also certified.

“You can’t spend a lot of time recruiting,” Rosenhaus said. “You have to have people assist you with that, and the only way to do that is to get them certified as NFLPA contract advisers.”

NFL agent Pat Dye Jr., president of SportsTrust Advisors, texted, “I did get our Vice President of Marketing [McGuire] certified. Otherwise he would not be able to participate in recruiting presentations outside our offices, which is where 90% of these presentations take place.”

Roosevelt Barnes, partner in Relativity Sports, said Sermersheim, longtime client services manager Tory Dandy and his son, Jovan Barnes, all applied and were certified by the NFLPA this summer. “It’s the only way they could talk to our clients,” Barnes said.

The runner rule replaced the “junior rule,” which prevented NFLPA-certified agents from recruiting underclassmen.

Agents were glad to be rid of the junior rule, which they said put them at a disadvantage with financial advisers and marketing agents, who are not required to follow NFLPA rules, as well as with certified contract advisers who were willing to break the junior rule. But agents said the runner rule posed a new problem. It made it difficult, if not impossible, to compete with agents from pure marketing agencies when it came to recruiting NFL players and draft prospects for marketing work, as well as playing contract work.

This year, there are 192 new agents who passed the NFLPA’s agent test, which was administered in July, according to Mark Levin, NFLPA director of salary cap and agent administration. That number represents 73 percent of the 263 applicants who took the test. Typically between 65 percent and 75 percent of the people who take the test pass, Levin said.

The number of applicants taking the test increased this year from 230 to 263.

Before this year’s agent certification process, there were 715 certified agents.

Not all of the major NFL representation practices had employees apply to be certified. For example, the football division of CAA Sports and NFL player rep firm Sportstars did not.

“We have a full-time, paid marketing department,” said Alan Herman, founder of Sportstars, which employs nine NFLPA-certifed agents, in an email. “They don’t recruit.”

> IMG SIGNS KAEPERNICK: IMG has signed 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for marketing and endorsement work.

IMG Vice President Carlos Fleming will lead the team of IMG agents representing Kaepernick.

XAM Sports, which had represented Kaepernick for marketing and endorsements, will represent him on his playing contract.

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

The National Basketball Players Association is looking for an executive with an understanding of labor law, marketing and licensing and with a passion for basketball as its next leader.

Those are among the attributes listed in an eight-page job specification written by executive search firm Reilly Partners, which was hired last month to assist the players union in the search for a new executive director to replace Billy Hunter, who was terminated in February.

NBPA President Chris Paul cited Reilly Partners’ experience with other sports unions.
This is a familiar assignment for Chicago-based Reilly Partners, which worked in the past for the NFLPA and NHLPA as it searched for its top executive. That familiarity is evident in the job outline, as it is, in many ways, similar to one it wrote for the NFLPA five years ago. In fact, some of the wording is exactly the same.

“The successful candidate should be a visionary leader and a strategic thinker with proven operational and organizational skills,” state both the NFLPA and NBPA job specs. Both require candidates to have a bachelor’s degree, while “attainment of advanced degree in law, business administration, or another related field [is] preferred.”

Chicago-based Reilly Partners assisted the NHLPA in 2007 in the search that resulted in Paul Kelly’s election as executive director, as well as the search that resulted in DeMaurice Smith’s election as NFLPA executive director in 2009. Attempts to obtain the NHLPA job specification document were unsuccessful.

Reilly Partners declined to comment for this story.

Both NBPA President Chris Paul and Ron Klempner, NBPA acting executive director, cited Reilly Partners’ experience in working with other sports unions as one reason the firm was selected.

“They hit the ground running,” Klempner said. “We felt it was important to have a firm with a labor mindset.”

However, there are differences between the job specs for the open NBPA position and the NFLPA post, including a more detailed description that looks to avoid some of the issues that affected Hunter, who was fired after a report found that he failed to put the interests of the union above his own interests and did not properly manage conflicts of interest, among other things.

Some of the specific details in the job spec:

Work with the executive committee and player representatives to develop and execute organizational goals; strategic plans; policies and procedures; sound financial management and practices; and potential partnerships.

Manage outside counsel, experts, and consultants in a timely and efficient manner.

And while the NFLPA’s job spec did not list any requirements relating to the NFL or football, the NBPA document states one of the personal attributes it is looking for in a candidate is “Passion: For the sport of basketball and as a representative for the players.”

Cathy Griffin, CEO of the Griffin Network, an executive search and coaching firm specializing in the sport and entertainment industries, said details in the job spec make it clear that NBPA leaders had a lot of input into the outline. As far as the similarities between other executive director posts, Griffin said, “It is not unusual for a search firm to use a similar job spec from a previous search to draft a new spec for a similar position.”

There is no time frame for finding a new National Basketball Players Association executive director, union officials said last week.

“We don’t want to rush it,” newly elected NBPA President Chris Paul said in a brief interview. “We want the search to take its course, and we are not ruling anybody out as far as applying for the job.”

Both Paul and Ron Klempner, NBPA acting executive director, said they want to involve as many players as possible in finding a new executive director to succeed Billy Hunter, who was fired in February after a union-commissioned report found that he had acted in his own interests and against the interests of players.

There has been speculation that NBA players could make a decision at February’s All-Star Game weekend in New Orleans, when many of them could participate in the process.

“That is a possibility, there’s no doubt about it, but we don’t want to commit to that because we are going to allow the process to play itself out,” Klempner said. “We want to make sure the players have the time to fully consider anyone who is a viable candidate.”

Since Hunter’s departure, several names have surfaced as possible successors, but neither Paul nor Klempner would comment on specific names.

One person who is out of the running is longtime basketball executive Steve Mills, who was named president and general manager of the New York Knicks last month. Mills confirmed in a text to SportsBusiness Journal that his new position removes him from consideration for the executive director position. “Yes, I am out,” Mills wrote.

— Liz Mullen