Is the agent or agency that’s recruiting you registered to practice as an agent or agency in your state?
For the NFL, sports agent firms must be registered with the National Football League Player’s Association (NFLPA) to negotiate a contract for a player. The Uniform Athlete Agents Act, or the UAAA, is a state law currently recognized by 40 States (as of April 2011), in addition to Washington D.C. and the U.S. Virgin Islands, that regulates the recruiting actions of agents.
The Act’s purpose is to create uniformity in the way sports agent firms go about recruiting and communicating with prospective clients. Part of the Act requires that sports agents register in each state in which they choose to recruit athletes in.
If you’re in a state where the UAAA isn’t recognized, ask them if they’re registered in that particular state (if applicable). If you’re already a professional athlete, the prospective agent(s) don’t have to register with your state.
Have you ever been disbarred, suspended or disciplined as an attorney or agent?
While bad things do happen to good people at times, it’s good to know whether or not the sports agent firm you’re considering has ever been disciplined, suspended or disbarred (in the event that they’re also an attorney). Research the attorney or agent, and feel free to bring-up what you’ve learned. There may be a good explanation of what happened, but it’s important that you’re comfortable with them and their track record.
What is your fee? Is your fee negotiable? How and when do you bill me for your services? Do you provide any type of annual statement to your clients?
Sports agent firms normally bill on a percentage of the value of the contract they negotiate on the players behalf. Quite often this fee is capped. For example, in the NFL (National Football League) and the UFL (United Football League), these fees are capped at 3%, meaning the agents’s commissions cannot exceed 3% of the total value of the contract negotiated.
Even so, you can ask to pay the agent on an hourly rate, if it’s agreed upon. It’s been said that Ray Allen, now of the Boston Celtics (NBA), saved himself over $2.8m by paying Johnny Cochran $500 an hour instead of paying a 4% commission back in 1999 when he was negotiating his own contract with the Milwaukee Bucks.
As far as athletic training, who do you work with? Who have they prepared for the Combine in the past? Who pays for my training?
Nowadays, sports agent firms commonly foot the bill for combine and pro day preparation training for sure-fire draft picks. Some athletes choose to stay at school and train for these events, while others prefer to go to a remote location to train.
It’s important to make sure that you and your prospective representatives have a clear understanding regarding where you’re training, who’s training you, and how much it will cost, as well as if any of the related fees are your own financial responsibility.
Your career’s at stake, so it’s vital that you research the experience and track record of the entity where you’ll be training.
What type of financial services do you provide? Do you receive any referral fees from the financial advisor you recommend? Can I use my own financial planner or accountant?
Sports agent firms sometimes receive kickbacks or commissions for referring clients to specific financial advisors. This practice obviously should raise concern regarding whether or not the agency is referring that financial advisor because of their performance and quality of services.
Ask if they recommend a financial advisor. If they do, investigate the backgrounds of them. If you discover any red flags, bring up your concerns with the agency or agent to see what they say. Sports agent firms that recommend financial advisors with questionable backgrounds shouldn’t necessarily be disqualified from consideration, as they are (or should be) two separate entities. It’s also possible that they either didn’t know about the infractions themselves, or that there’s a good explanation behind what you found, unless it’s criminal activity.
When interviewing prospective financial advisors, find out their take on you employing risk managers to assess the level of risk involved with their recommended investments. If your best interest is their true concern, they shouldn’t have an issue with you having a third party look over their recommendations. Financial advisers that represent NFL players must register with the NFLPA just like agents.
NOTE: Never choose a financial advisor or sports agent firms just because they recruit you heavily! Find the one that’s best for YOU.
How many clients do you currently have? How do you plan to address my needs while dealing with your other clients?
The number of current clientele that sports agent firms can have varies greatly. You need to make sure you’re comfortable with the amount of clientele they currently have and will have in the near future. Such information can be helpful in determining the amount of attention and time that they’re able to put into your career.
Conversely, larger sports agent firms have the infrastructure in place to still be able to provide quality time and attention to individual clients, so be sure to inquire about the structure of their firm in this regard.
If for some reason, I am not drafted, how can you help me increase my chances of making a team?
Unfortunately, each year prospects fail to get drafted that expected to be. There are also players that were expected to be Undrafted Free Agents that end up not getting selected. Experienced sports agent firms will work with you to create a plan of action to assess worst case scenarios.
Ask what kind of plan they would put in place to assess a situation where you weren’t selected, or where you ended up getting Undrafted Free Agent offers if you were expecting to be drafted.
Ask if situations like this happened in the past, and how they handled it.
What are your strategies regarding endorsement deals for a player like me?
Endorsement deals are much harder to come by today in professional football than years past. The best ones are reserved for star quarterbacks, especially those that play in big market cities. Marketing opportunities for average players in small markets are very rare.
The amount of weight you put on a sports agent firms experience with client endorsements is up to you, however it’s wise to consider how scarce they are when judging sports agent firms.
How can you help me make additional money from other opportunities?
Even though endorsements are scarce, opportunities are still there. The main factor to finding these opportunities is superior performance on the field, but there are other factors, such as image and accessibility, that will boost your chances.
The best sports agent firms have resources, either internal or external, that assist clients with optimizing their public appeal through community service, free public speaking opportunities, social media strategies, interviews, and other opportunities to make you accessible, personable, and memorable in the eyes of the public.
How can you help me prepare for life after sports, in addition to having good financial management? What other clients have you helped with their post-career?
Post-career assistance and guidance is a fairly standard offering with today’s sports agent firms. The key is whether or not you are prepared to listen and follow the guidance provided. It’s one thing to say you’ll listen, and that you will be smart with your money, however it’s a whole other reality when you begin to get those huge checks. Ask the 75% of former NFL players that are broke within 3-5 years after leaving the NFL.
For more guidance and tips to help you become an informed and smart professional football player (on and off the field, visit Get 2 The League today!
Alvin currently serves as an Agent Advisor at Elite Sports Agency, where he assists and provides career guidance to professional football players daily.
He contributes regularly to Get2TheLeague.com, a website designed to empower athletes with the knowledge to play professional football, enjoy a long career, and experience a smooth transition into a successful post-football career.
He also authored “Move the Chains: Keys to Unlocking a Pro Football Career,” which is available at [http://www.MoveTheChainsBook.com].
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