The League

Peter Schaffer
NFL Agent

Peter Schaffer

Agent and professor of sports law

Be Proactive, Rosenhaus

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Nothing good ever comes out of a professional sports team suspending one of its star players. Everyone loses -- the team, the fans and the player. Yet players are suspended every year in professional sports, often for some of the craziest reasons. The reality is that in most cases the suspension and the actions by the teams could be avoided if the player and his advisers are proactive as opposed to reactive.

A professional sports team which derives its revenue from on-field success is never happy when they're forced to suspend a player. They have invested more than just money into him; they have invested time, sweat equity and passed on other prospects, all with the goal of wining ballgames and championships. Like spanking a parent spanking a child, the team is hurting themselves more than they are hurting the player.

Suspension is almost always the final resort -- the last straw after a history of infractions, misguided decisions or bad behavior. It is however up to the player and his professional representatives to prevent it before it becomes a trend. Isolated incidents result in fines or running gassers at 6 am. Suspensions come from consistently inconsistent behavior.

To avoid them it is essential that the agent and the player have a solid, honest relationship. If the player is committing an act of indiscretion, i.e. missing a practice, meeting, workout etc., the player must feel comfortable enough to call that agent, even if he has not alerted the team or his coach. The agent can then act as a buffer with the team until such time as the player can handle the situation maturely and responsibly. An agent should never lie to the team to protect his client but endeavor to find out and get an answer before the problem escalates to a crisis. The agent can then take care of, or at least mitigate, the situation before it goes to Def Com 1.

Now it comes to the proactive vs. reactive approach. As stated above, very few of theses situations are isolated incidents. Thus, if an agent knows that his or her client has a history of tardiness or irresponsibility, then the agent must be straightforward and explain the ramifications. An agent must abstain from cajoling and enabling the client from acting inappropriately. An open and honest relationship is required to discourage bad behavior. An agent who only (for lack of a better term) "sucks up" to his or her client does not have that client's best interest in mind. A fear, or lack, of honest communication between an agent and client places that player's future at risk. You cannot be afraid to be brutally honest -- your job is to protect the client's career and not your relationship.

At the end of the day, a football player owes his loyalty to the other 52 players on his team. There is never any excuse for a failure to abide by the rules of common decency and planning ahead. Most of the suspension situations in the history of professional sports were entirely and shamefully avoidable. In the end, when a player is suspended there is no winner.


To avoid them it is essential that the agent and the player have a solid, honest relationship. If the player is committing an act of indiscretion, i.e. missing a practice, meeting, workout etc., the player must feel comfortable enough to call that agent, even if he has not alerted the team or his coach. The agent can then act as a buffer with the team until such time as the player can handle the situation maturely and responsibly. An agent should never lie to the team to protect his client but endeavor to find out and get an answer before the problem escalates to a crisis. The agent can then take care of, or at least mitigate, the situation before it goes to Def Com 1.

Now it comes to the proactive vs. reactive approach. As stated above, very few of theses situations are isolated incidents. Thus, if an agent knows that his or her client has a history of tardiness or irresponsibility, then the agent must be straightforward and explain the ramifications. An agent must abstain from cajoling and enabling the client from acting inappropriately. An open and honest relationship is required to discourage bad behavior. An agent who only (for lack of a better term) "sucks up" to his or her client does not have that client's best interest in mind. A fear, or lack, of honest communication between an agent and client places that player's future at risk. You cannot be afraid to be brutally honest -- your job is to protect the client's career and not your relationship.

At the end of the day, a football player owes his loyalty to the other 52 players on his team. There is never any excuse for a failure to abide by the rules of common decency and planning ahead. Most of the suspension situations in the history of professional sports were entirely and shamefully avoidable. In the end, when a player is suspended there is no winner.

By Peter Schaffer  |  September 25, 2008; 6:01 AM ET  | Category:  NFL Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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