As the NFL grows and thrives, plenty of people are making plenty of money via contracts containing plenty of pages. The stakes and complexity of these transactions require not only players but also coaches and front-office personnel and, more recently, journalists and broadcasters to hire agents.
Conflicts of interest are rampant, and often intricate. Some agencies represent players and coaches, a practice that has troubled us for years but which continues unfettered. Some agencies represent players and coaches and General Managers, another potentially problematic stew of conflicting agendas. And some agencies have enhanced their player/coach/G.M. practice with the representation of journalists and/or broadcasters.
So what if a broadcaster who is represented by an agency is commenting favorably on, say, a draft-eligible rookie who is represented by the same agency? Or what if the broadcaster is slamming, say, a draft-eligible rookie who is represented by a different agency?
We’re not saying that any impropriety is occurring or has occurred, or that any appearance of impropriety should be implied. But shouldn’t the situation be disclosed so that the audience can decide for itself whether there’s reason to question what the client of a given agency may be saying about another client of the same agency — or about another player who is competing with that client for draft position?
I’ve got no journalism training (and it routinely shows). But I generally believe that potentially compromising situations should be openly disclosed, and that the audience should be left to decide whether any compromising actually has happened. For example, we openly acknowledge our NBC bias — and we publicly declare the partnership via the presence of the NBC logo on every page of the site. So if I write something good about an NBC show or bad about something on another network, the audience can decide for itself whether I’m being a shill, or whether my position has any merit. But wouldn’t it be odd if we were secretly partnering with NBC and I were from time to time singing the praises of NBC programming and/or dissing the programming of other networks without sharing with the audience the existence of the relationship?
We’ve opted for now not to name any names of journalists and/or broadcasters who may be in a compromising position, in large part because we’re not completely sure this is a real problem. In the past, I’ve raised this issue with some of the journalists and/or broadcasters I know, and I’ve detected a vague sense in some of the exchanges that the journalists and/or broadcasters in such relationships realize it could become a problem at some point, and that they’re hoping that everyone will continue not to notice, or not to care.
Maybe that’s the case. But the draft process brings the situation into its sharpest focus, with journalists and broadcasters routinely commenting on players without ever telling the audience that, for example, the broadcaster and the player share a common agency.
The job of the agency is to get the player drafted as high as possible — surely, the relationship between broadcaster and agency will potentially be strained if the broadcaster is doing his or her job in a way that works against the agency’s mission for the players it represents. Conversely, the broadcaster possibly will be regarded as a good solider and/or a preferred client if he or she helps advance the agency’s agenda regarding helping its player-clients be drafted as early as possible.
Let us know your thoughts on this, including whether you even care.