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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Calling Out Mike Greenberg on the O.J. Mayo Controversy

Mike Greenberg, for all intents and purposes, opined that he really didn't see -- in the abstract -- what was wrong with a sports agent's passing money along to O.J. Mayo. Greenberg offered that the offering and the taking of the money aren't illegal, it's just that a self-appointed regulatory body (the NCAA) and colleges (such as USC) prohibit such behavior. He then offered that in other businesses people offer such payments -- for example, to teenage tennis stars, etc. -- and that such payments aren't illegal if the kids turn pro right away.

To paraphrase Greenberg's on-air partner, Mike Golic, "Greenie, are you kidding me?" Golic took the opposite point of view, which is that such payments start a slippery slope that lead from agents to boosters to paying kids illegally to play.

My take: Greenie, have you heard of ethics? Why is it okay for an agent (allegedly, of course) to hire "street" agents to funnel money to star athletes with the hope of inking them to a contract when they're eligible to sign one that will a) get the kid-turned-star big bucks and b) the agent a good 5% of all sports-related and endorsement-related revenues? It's plain unethical, it's taking advantage of kids, it's potentially rendering them ineligible to play at the best training ground possible to up their market value, all in the name of the aggrandizement of the agent. Do the agents in these circumstances care about the kids? Probably not, because if they have enough street money they're making bets. Dole out, say, $30,000 a year to say 10 kids, and one or two of them might hit and earn you commissions that far exceed this business practice. And why would the kids be selecting you? Because you're good, or because you're buying them and you're acting in your own interests.

Such practices are predatory, and kids don't know any better. It's hard to turn down the perks and the green, especially if you're a kid who's gone lacking for material things and you're a kid whom everyone says is wonderful and therefore entitled to life's good things. Sure, the kid should have a good moral compass and realize that there's no such thing as free goods or free money, but many don't. Humans yield to temptation on occasion, and the thought of a free convertible, free clothes and a free flat-screen TV might be too tempting to turn down. Especially given how minimal the NCAA's monthly stipend is for athletes on scholarship.

The son of a friend of mine wants to be a sports agent. Why? Probably because he hasn't figured out that there is much more sizzle than steak out there. Yet, he turned down a summer job with a sports agent in a big city. The job? Running basketball camps in poor neighborhoods. The catch -- why do you think the agent is doing it in the first place? And, it's not as though the athletes you're seeking to represent are grateful, nice or fun to be with. They're a mixed bag, to be sure, just like any other profession, except that the sense of entitlement is probably greater. Be careful what you wish for kid, or else, if you start at the bottom, you'll be the one with the bag of cash.

So, Greenie, please reconsider your thoughts on this one. You're a wise soul in a sea of somewhat frustrated, self-righteous commentators, and you're usually right on the mark.

This time, though, you miss it. Agents who funnel cash to kids just shouldn't be doing it.


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