What Happens When Agents Get Fired?
I came into this business aiming to play small role during a young man’s journey to living out their dream. I envisioned guiding an athlete to their first professional contract. And adding value off the court with anything else they needed along the way. I definitely did not envision this process being perfect, but I also figured if there were any disputes along the way that we would be able to communicate and come to a professional solution.
Professional athletes. Big contracts. Celebrity statuses.
What could possibly go wrong?
Unfortunately, a lot!
Remember, I am not a practicing lawyer, and I would never pretend to be. But I will go out on a limb and say that this cutthroat, client-stealing, money-hungry athlete representation world is far different than the world of practiced law! After you sign a new client, his Facebook messenger and WhatsApp inbox are full of poachers selling them a pipe dream before he can even suit up for practice with the new club.
As I mentioned in part I, being an agent is much more than just negotiating a contract.
Waiting To Slide:
The relationship between an agent and player can sometimes feel similar to the paranoia you get when you are dating someone. If you’ve ever been in a relationship during the social media days, you know exactly what I’m talking about. It's 2020 so let's just keep it real -- there is someone out there sliding into your DMs!
Now obviously the comparison I’m making is a bit different. The end goal for the people poaching clients is not to sleep with them (at least I hope it's not).
But you get the point. There just needs to be a level of trust. Will your client screenshot that message and keep you informed like they are supposed to?
Or will they keep some secrets and take the bait?
If a client doesn’t get the type of contract they think they deserve, they fire their agent. It’s as simple as that. Justified or unjustified, that’s been the trend for what seems like the past few decades in professional sports.
The Mirror Doesn't Lie:
Sometimes players think agents can wave a magic wand and magically make their dream situation come to fruition. But what many players forget to realize is how complicated things can get. For starters, most players are just not as good as they think they are. If there are no contracts being offered, there is a disconnect from how good he or she thinks they are to how good he or she really is.
Another way I like to phrase that is, “Look in the mirror, it doesn’t lie!”
If you’re wondering why the Boston Celtics didn’t offer you a contract, did you take into consideration their current salary cap? What about luxury taxes? Did you think about future draft picks and depth charts by position? Do they have a young player in the mix on their G-League team that they hope to bring up? When we’re talking about the NBA, roster management is a byproduct of many variables.
When we’re talking about overseas, roster management restrictions can be as simple as a cap on American import players per season. But it can also be as complicated as 'someone owes someone a favor because someone else gave someone money, which means there is only one person they can sign.' Yes that’s a real thing. Sometimes there is no explanation for why players receive contracts. A lot of variables can be out of your control when dealing with overseas.
How Can An Agent Get Fired?
There are numerous reasons that a player will fire their agent. Here are just a few of the most common:
A player is underperforming and blames everyone but himself (thinks the agent is the cause)
A player has a better than expected season and thinks they should have gotten that same deal earlier
A player feels the agent is not spending enough time with them
A player is directly offered a contract from another club (highly unprofessional)
A player wants to sign with their friend's agent because he saw them sign a nice deal
A player is poached away by another agent (far too often)
As always, I try to balance my personal experience with an objective explanation. Sometimes the above reasons are completely justified by the player! There are plenty of times when an agent has acted unprofessionally or simply just doesn't communicate properly. But there are other times where there is not enough evidence to justify a firing. Sometimes a player just feels like making a change. To each their own! But if you read part IV of this series, you are well aware that this is a business. When you sign with an agent you make a decision. You don’t just get to do whatever you want. If a player wants to go in a different direction they should have that right. Will the agent want to know why? Yes most likely. But does that agent have the right to be properly compensated for the services provided? Absolutely.
That’s why contracts include a dispute process with respective consequences for trying to cheat the system.
So What Happens When There is a Dispute?
With respect to any dispute that arises in the NBA, the procedure for filing an appeal and invoking arbitration is set in the NBPA Regulations Governing Player Agents. The NBPA selects an outside impartial Arbitrator to resolve disputes between players, agents or the enforcement of a Standard Player Agent Contract.
With respect to any dispute that arises overseas, the procedure for filing an appeal and invoking arbitration is set in the FIBA Regulations Governing Player Agents. FIBA has recognized The Basketball Arbitral Tribunal as the independent body to resolve disputes between players, agents, coaches and clubs.
Disputes are not fun for anyone. But the reason the arbitration process is in place is to hold people accountable for their actions. There are hundreds of disputes every single season in basketball alone. And unfortunately the way the business is set up I just don’t see it changing any time soon. As always, we can only control what we can control. So on my end I will continue to learn and adjust as I experience new situations. I hope future agent/client relationships are improved.
I hope they are less about pipe dreams and materialistic promises and more about honesty and teamwork.
I hope they are less about being rich and more about constant growth.
I hope values are based less on image and status and based more on integrity and purpose.
If you missed the previous parts of this series, check out the links below:
Part One: So You Wanna Be An Agent?
Part Two: How Do Agents Make Money?
Part Three: Sports Agency Business Model
Part Four: Contracts 101
Part Five: Agent Certification Process
Part Six: Recruiting 101