Are Agents Ruining Sports?

Charles Barkley often bemoans the state of professionalism and declining skill-level in the NBA today.  He blames the multi-million dollar contracts offered to teenagers coming out of high school without ever playing a minute of ball at the professional level — and until recently without ever playing at the college level.  The hunger to prove yourself gets satisfied pretty quickly with $42.3 million.

There are also the hungry agents promising each of these young celebrities-in-waiting that they, too, can be a star.  All of the money and notoriety can certainly turn anyone’s head and skew priorities. 

But, what about the pride and satisfaction of striving to be the best in the sport that’s paying them millions to participate?  Can they do it all?  Talk on the endorsed-T-Mobile while drinking endorsed-Gatorade while viewing the next script while taking singing lessons while …. hey, can you throw me the ball?   

With these agents vying for potential superstar athlete/clients while they are still in high school, are sports — and even these kids — being well-served?  It seems professional sports are becoming just another road to Hollywood and away from the sport or an education or even reality.  Some agents, who probably dream dollar signs, market their athlete/clients with sports as an afterthought.  That leaves the fans, spending hard-earned dollars to attend games (or should we call them events?) short-changed and these young athletes rich – for a while – and still hungry for a life-long celebrity lifestyle that is hard to maintain.

In the April 14, 2008, issue of Sports Illustrated, Selena Roberts wrote about athletes wanting the celebrity status to last forever.  Roberts quoted an NBA player who said he wanted to ensure a lifestyle that means “never going to baggage claim again.”  And many believe the way to ensure that is to head straight for Hollywood.  The problem for sports — and sports fans — is that on their way, they often neglect to nurture the skills that brought them to the celebrity dance in the first place.

Unlike Michael Jordan who, as Roberts pointed out, gained his fame “title by title,” many young superstars sign with agents who promise immediate Hollywood-style fame.  You can dunk?  Well, then you can act-sing-accept-your-Oscar while still leading your team to the championship.  Roberts said the William Morris Agency, one of the largest entertainment agencies in the world,  considers players to be entertainers first and athletes second.

Look, I agree with the U. S. Army.  Be all that you can be.  So I am not saying athletes shouldn’t strive for whatever they can get, aim for the stars, have it all.  But, I also agree with Charles Barkley.  Watch some classic NBA games from the last couple of decades.  Jordan, Barkley, Magic and Bird all strove to be the best, taking pride in the game and their skills.  And they are all still successful, smartly leveraging their fame and fortune into post-NBA achievements. 

They’re all also admired and remembered for their athletic skills.  All can probably choose to go Hollywood whenever they want, but more importantly, these guys went Springfield, as in Springfield, Massachusetts, the home of the Basketball Hall of Fame.  I think they would have made it there without the help of a super-agent.     



4 Responses to Are Agents Ruining Sports?

  1. Morgan says:

    Yes, it has to be distracting while these young ‘superstar’ athletes are having million dollar contracts waved in their faces. The life of a star is going to sound appealing to everyone. That’s what agents do though. I don’t know what Charles Barkley has to complain an ESPN interview, “Barkley said Wednesday on ESPN that he has lost “probably $10 million” gambling, adding, “It is a problem for me.”

    “My agent has really worked with me to try to get it where I can go and gamble and have fun,” he said. “That’s easier said than done.

    And your agent is going to do whatever you want to get your money, as you can see with Barkley. This man is admitting he’s having a problem, but his agent is still making sure he’s gambling. If your agent isn’t doing what you want them to do…would they be your agent?? Absolutely not.

    I’m sure the pressure is intense…but there’s a line that needs to be drawn. Superstar athletes can’t blame the agent, or blame the money…they are all human and have morals. The question at hand is…where did the love of the game go?

  2. N'Jeri says:

    I feel like this new found fame is more of the agents fault. I know you touched a bit on that, but these athletes are young like you said, they are only following what they have seen before them, and what their told to do. So it is the agents, and the coaches and hollywoods priorities that are screwed up. These players are not finding fame alone. I think it is good that these young players have so many oportunities, and they obviously can handle the pressure. If we want stronger players, then we have to put that first. It is the audience who only want Nike and Sprite because Lebron James has it, we encourage this behavior. Then we tear them down, when they are trying to satisfy the industry and the fans, but make a living for themselves. Maybe it is the expensive payout that gets on people’s nerves. There are starving people on the streets, yet we pay athletes millions to throw a ball in a hoop, and drive a Chevy. My point is, we create these monsters, and then criticize them for our work. So who needs to get their priorities straight?

  3. N'Jeri says:

    I think it is great these young players are getting huge opotunities, but whose fault is it that they are not strong athletes and better actors. It is the industry, the fans, and agents that build these athletes up, create the images we expect to see, and then tear them down when they disappoint us. These athletes are young, and are only following what they know, and what they are told. The fans are the one’s who only want to drink Sprite or wear Nike just because Lebron James does. This forces agencies to use these athletes to market and sale products. Maybe it is the expensive payout that turns us off. Athelets are paid millions to throw a ball in a hoop and drive a Chevy, when there are starving people on the streets. We make these monsters, and then criticize them for trying to satisfy their supporters, and make a living for temselves. Tell me now who need to get their priorities straight?

  4. Nicholas S. says:

    Athletes are over paid no matter what. They are over paid as athletes, celebrities, and endorsers. I don’t know which is worse. The fact that they don’t maintain their athletic skills, or the fact that they are terrible entertainers. They have always been terrible entertainers. Shaq played a RAPPING GENIE in Kazaam! Must I say more?
    So now that I have established that I think they are overpaid and virtually with out talent, outside the world of pro-sports, I only have on thing left to say. Who wouldn’t take advantage of all those opportunities if they could? I’m not saying it’s right that they are outrageously overpaid, but if someone wanted to pay me that much money, I wouldn’t say no. The difference is that I would donate so much more of it and put it to good use. Most of these athletes don’t do that. They hoard all the money for themselves and buy 7 different color Hummers so that when Mtv Cribs comes to their house, they can say they have a different color Hummer for each day of the week. When it comes to athletes losing their skills, I consider that the agent’s, team owner’s, and coach’s faults. Skill maintenance and practice should be included in pro-sports contracts and should be heavily regulated. If I paid an athlete $40million I would make sure they’re doing their job. They do all of the endorsements and entertainment stuff because they can make more money, and because know one is regulating them or telling them not to.

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