In the world of professional basketball, players are often represented by agents who negotiate contracts on their behalf. But what about the contracts between the agent and the player? Is the player able to negotiate terms or does the player have no right to indicate that some terms are not beneficial to him/her? While these agreements are crucial for securing opportunities and protecting players’ interests, it is essential for athletes to understand that they have the right to question and negotiate the terms presented to them. I will discuss the importance of players asserting their wishes before signing with an agent. A specific example where a questionable clause was included in an agent/player agreement will also be discussed in this blog.

1. Understanding the Player’s Role:

You as a player are not just passive recipients of contract terms; you should be an active participant in the negotiation process. It is crucial for athletes to recognize their worth and the value they bring to the table. By realizing their importance, players can confidently engage in meaningful discussions about the terms and conditions that will govern their professional journey.

I have dealt with many players, however, that blindly sign contracts which no one should be signing out of blind trust. I also know many players who never actually read the contract which was given to them by their agents. This is a practice that has to stop! What you don’t know or understand could cost you dearly.

2. The Power of Inquiry:

One of the most powerful tools players have at their disposal is the ability to inquire and seek clarification on contract terms. Players should not hesitate to ask questions or express concerns about any clause that seems unfair, vague, or detrimental to their interests. Remember, an agent/player agreement should be a mutually beneficial partnership, and open communication is vital for fostering trust and understanding.

I have had many conversations with hoopers that feel they cannot ask questions because when they do, they have the feeling it gets on the nerves of the agent. It is your career, you have every right to ask as many questions as necessary to have a full understanding of any topic.

3. Case Study: The Termination Fee Discrepancy:

Here I would like to examine a specific example to illustrate the importance of player scrutiny with the agent contracts.  

I know two players who are signed to the same agency. In one agent/player contract, there was a clause stating that if the player terminated the contract, they would be required to pay a hefty “termination” fee of $1500. However, it came to my attention that the same agent had included a similar clause in another player’s contract, but this time the fee was significantly lower, set at $300.

We have no idea why there is such a discrepancy. I have an idea why but that is not the point. The point is that neither of those contracts should have been signed with the clause in it. It is definitely against FIBA rules and is frankly unethical, not to mention having different rates for players of the same agency.

4. Evaluating the Viability of Clauses:

Both of the mentioned termination fee clauses raise concerns. It is crucial for players to understand that contract clauses should be fair, reasonable, and proportionate. In this case, the significant discrepancy in the termination fees raises questions about the agent’s intentions and the fairness of such terms. Players should be wary of such clauses and consider seeking legal counsel or consulting with industry experts to ensure they are not being taken advantage of.

And if you as a player feel the agent is being evasive or even confrontational when you ask questions or notice such a clause, then this is not a serious agent and you might have to keep looking.

If you bring a concern to the agent before signing the contract, the agent can take or at least amend the contract to terms in which you are more comfortable with. No one says you HAVE to sign a contract “as is”. Terms are allowed to be modified. 

And while I speak about this topic of negotiating contracts, let me bring up another clause that can be negotiated but most hardly even think about.

It is still common practice that teams pay the agent’s commission, but this may change more and more in the future and the player will have to pay it. The terms of when payments are due CAN be negotiated with the agent. Of course they will want their commission as soon as possible, but that doesn’t mean you cannot negotiate it. 

Maybe the agent wants the commission paid in full directly with your first paycheck. You can, however, suggest a different way of installments based on your needs. If you don’t ask, you won’t know the possibilities.

5. Seeking Legal Advice:

When faced with questionable contract terms, players should not hesitate to seek legal advice. Sports attorneys or consultants such as myself, specialize in basketball contracts and are able to help players navigate the complexities and nuances of the agreement. These professionals can provide valuable insights, help identify unfair clauses, help the player to help themselves and ensure their best interests are protected.

6. Empowering Players:

At the heart of this discussion is the importance of empowering players to take an active role in their professional careers. By advocating for themselves and actively participating in contract negotiations, players can shape the terms that will govern their careers and protect their long-term interests.

Players must recognize their role in agent/player contract negotiations. You should be proactive in seeking clarity, questioning unfair terms, and advocating for revisions when necessary. The example of the termination fee discrepancy highlights the need for players to be cautious and aware of potential pitfalls within their contracts. By being informed and assertive, players can ensure that their agreements reflect their worth and protect their rights as professional athletes.

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