Helping athletes maximize their value!
By Spyros M Arsenis and Mitchell Schuster, Meister Seelig & Fein LLP, New York, USA*
A professional athlete’s career is unlike any other profession we know of.
While most of us just see the highlights of our favorite superstars on television, we tend to turn a blind-eye to what goes on behind the scenes. Most athletes have spent the majority of their formative years training towards reaching the uncertain pinnacle of a professional career—often times and by necessity, at the exclusion of developing other skill-sets more adaptive to the mainstream employment market.
Yet, an overwhelming majority of these athletes – only if they are lucky – enjoy very short professional careers. The average career of an NFL player is about 3.3 years, 4.8 years for an NBA player, and 8 years for a professional soccer player. It is imperative that legal professionals immediately put their clients in situations to maximize the athlete’s career earnings potential with a view towards planning and preparing the athlete for life after sports.
Therefore, a good legal advisor must wear multiple hats. In other words, treat your athlete client as a business entity—where, on the one hand, you manage, minimize and respond to risks that can have an adverse impact on the value of the client’s professional brand; while on the other hand, aggressively identify and pursue opportunities or relationships that can lead to additional sources of revenue for the client.
Be a “rainmaker” for the client:
- Don’t be that monolithic lawyer that sits behind a desk all day reviewing contracts. Start by understanding and constantly evaluating trends in the client’s specific sport and, furthermore, fairly assess the client’s standing and value within that specific market.
- Ask yourself, does the client possess any qualities or characteristics that make him/her uniquely valuable to a sponsor? How is the client perceived by the general public? Is he/she popular, charismatic, eloquent, attractive? What companies or causes can benefit from the client?
- Encourage the client to establish and become very active on social media platforms. Set up a personalized website—but above all, make sure all social media exposure is positive and in-line with the wholesome image and brand the client should be looking to portray.
Become the client’s security blanket:
As attorneys, our innate instinct is to be risk-averse.
Accordingly, much of what we do involves managing risk exposure, wealth protection, minimizing tax liability, brand/image protection, crisis management and, in its most granular form, protecting our clients from criminal liability.
Some of what we can do to protect our clients include:
- Identify and protect your client’s intellectual property. Trademark or Copyright the client’s name, likeness and other personal attributes (e.g., Michael Jordan’s “jumpman” pose, Cristiano Ronaldo’s “CR7”, or Michael Buffer’s sound mark “Let’s get ready to rumble”) —then leverage and monetize the client’s registered intellectual property right to grant income-generating licenses to various sponsors.
- Protect the client’s wealth and assets. First of all, start by educating the client and impressing on them how fleeting wealth can be. In other words, live below your means. Consider setting up entities or structures that can shelter the client’s assets.
- Minimize taxes. Consider where the client calls home. Choosing the proper domicile can result in significant tax savings. Living in States like Florida, Texas or Tennessee can make a big difference on the taxes the client pays.
This is an abridged version of a guest blog, which appeared in the June 2018 on-line Newsletter of Money Smart Athlete. For the full version, log onto the website at www.moneysmartathlete.com. It is reproduced here with the kind permission of the authors and Athena Constantinou, the creator of the website and The Sports Financial Literacy Academy (www.apc-sfla.com).