A Player’s Name Is Very Valuable

After a long week of meetings with clients and sponsors one subject that keeps reoccurring, I have come to the realization, there are a lot of people who are being “duped” by the current operations scheme of the National Football League (NFL) and National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). Once when I was signing a player to the roster, I was interested as to why this particular player decided to strikeout Paragraph 4 in his NFL Player Contract.  It took a little digging and understanding to realize that there are other players in other sports who often take this type of language.

If you remember when sports video games first came out, specifically NBA Live 97, on Sega Genesis (loved that game system), you could play with every player on the team except who?  Michael Jordan. This is because he opted out of specific contractual language in his standard player contract that allowed for the National Basketball Association (NBA) and the National Basketball Association Players Association (NBAPA) to promote, market, and sell his OWN name and he only receive a small portion of the proceeds.  While this is very good deal for most players while playing, looking back on the deal, it is really a bad deal for the players long-term. That is why you could never play as the name “Emmitt Smith” in any of the John Madden video games. You always played as “#22” or “Player 22”. 

The NFL and NBA get MILLIONS of dollars from its group licensing contracts and doles out a few thousand dollars per player every year to each active player. Once he contract is over, the extra checks stop.  It seems to be nothing more than the same system that is in place at the collegiate level where colleges and universities sell thousands of player merchandise such as jerseys, and players are not allowed to reap any benefits of the monies, but the coaches and players are greatly compensated for their efforts. Think about how many jerseys former Heisman trophy winner Charlie Ward sold for Florida State University, to only be left in the cold now and coaching at a high school in Houston, TX. I’m sure Florida State never offered to share any of that money with him when he left his Alma Matter.

Below is an excerpt from the current NFL Player Contract. Read it and you tell me if this was something you would feel comfortable signing, knowing that those who represent you said this was something you should sign, and all you got every year were a few thousand dollars of the tens of millions made on your name.  How comfortable would you feel?

“Publicity and NFLPA Group Licensing

(a)    Player grants to Club and the League, separately and together, the authority to use his name and picture for publicity and the promotion of NFL Football, the League or any of its member clubs in newspapers, magazines, motion pictures, game programs, and roster manuals, broadcasts and telecasts, and all other publicity and advertising media, provided such publicity and promotion does not constitute an endorsement by Player of a commercial product.

(b)   Player hereby assigns to the NFLPA and its licensing affiliates, if any, the exclusive right to use and to grant to persons, firms, or corporations (collectively “licensees”) the right to use his name, signature facsimile, voice, picture, photograph, likeness, and/or biographical information (collectively “image”) in group licensing programs.”

 When a player is making hundreds of thousands himself, he does not realize what he is truly giving up until it is too late to say anything about it.  After reading the words presented above, players essentially give up a lot of their rights just to play a game that does not truly have the interest of its players at heart.  It is about making the money and even bigger business than some might imagine. 

By the way, the practice of crossing out a high-profile name in a contract has also moved over into the coaching realm. Take a look at Madden ’09. Of all of the coaches, the only one that is not noted by name is Bill Belichick, and that is not by coincidence.

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