Brett Favre, quarterback of the Green Bay Packers, and his retirement have been items of speculation for years. His team’s resurgence this year has quieted some of those rumblings. Randy Moss is another player whose once promising career seemed to be headed nowhere until he joined the New England Patriots during the past off-season. Over the summer, Favre expressed his displeasure with his team for not making a run at Moss — perhaps because the two players, who are each having outstanding seasons, are represented by the same agent.
Bus Cook represents about 30 NFL players as well as a handful of Arena Football League and professional baseball players. One of the vice presidents at his agency, Donald Weatherell, made a presentation to a civic club I belonged to several years ago. He explained how the agent/client relationship is formed, how agents are paid and what kind of work they do for their clients. At the time Moss was renegotiating his contract with the Minnesota Vikings so we also got a first-hand look at the type of presentation that was being made on Moss’ behalf.
Cook’s isn’t a name you hear frequently in today’s world of disgruntled athletes who always seem to be chasing a more lucrative contract. That doesn’t mean he hasn’t received his share of press, but he tends to generate fewer headlines than mega-agents like Scott Boras. You might have heard Boras’ name recently because of his representation of Alex Rodriquez. The former Ranger recently opted out of his contract with three years remaining.
Boras said he had teams willing to pay his client in excess of $300 million — but it’s rumored that Rodriquez has agreed to terms with the Yankees for significantly less than that. However, the team would only negotiate a new contract if the abrasive agent was not involved in the talks. Most agents work quietly behind the scenes, and, according to Weatherell, take home a much smaller amount of their client’s pay than the public believes. The percentages of a salary that agents earn are directed by the collective bargaining agreements in place in all major sports, and typically run in the low single-digit range. What is unregulated is the amount of money agents can earn from their clients’ endorsement deals, and Weatherell said that’s the direction many agents focus their attention. In order for those types of deals to come in, though, players must maintain a positive public image. To accomplish that, he said agents assist their clients in charitable endeavors by advising on their foundations, coordinating their events and working closely in the community.
Many of those efforts will begin to take place very publicly over the next several weeks, beginning with tomorrow’s NFL broadcasts. Between now and Christmas we’ll see and read about professional athletes volunteering time at elementary schools and soup kitchens. Although most of us would like to think these efforts are truly philanthropic, the cynic in us is quick to point out that they are the type of image-building projects that can increase the value of endorsement contracts.
With the exception of a few highly compensated stars, though, most athletes do remain true to their roots and conduct themselves publicly in very positive ways. They do give back to their communities through gifts of their time and resources — and many continue to do so even after they leave the game. During tomorrow’s Dallas Cowboys’ game, owner Jerry Jones will kick off the team’s annual Salvation Army fundraising drive. Although the money put in the giant kettle at midfield during half-time of the Cowboys-Jets game will be largely ceremonial, the donations that will follow are real and will help fund important programs. Additionally, the food, time and money that professional athletes from a variety of sports will donate over the next five weeks will help people who find themselves in need. So for at least a few weeks during this holiday season, it’s probably best to put our inner cynic on the shelf and follow the example of Cook’s clients — and the athletes they compete with and against.
Bill Crist is associate publisher of the Brownwood Bulletin. His column appears on Wednesday. He may be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.