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Thursday, March 21, 2002
Steinberg, Dunn fight has just begun

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

"Show me the money" is only half of what superagent Leigh Steinberg is seeking in his lawsuit against former associate David Dunn.

Steinberg, one of the models for Tom Cruise's lead character in the movie "Jerry Maguire," has asked a U.S. District Court judge in Los Angeles to strip Dunn of Steinberg's former clients.

Steinberg
The NFL Players Association, however, claims it is the sole arbiter of agent certification in the league and filed a motion to dismiss the latter part of the suit. On Monday, the motion was denied by judge Ronald Lew.

"Under the National Labor Relations Act, we, as a union, are the exclusive jurisdiction for the agents," NFLPA general counsel Richard Berthelsen said. "We feel the court cannot decide whether or not it is appropriate for an agent to represent clients."

Steinberg, partner Jeff Moorad and their parent company, Assante, are suing Dunn and two other former associates, Brian Murphy and John Marshall Branion III, for stealing away clients and forming a rival firm, Athletes First, which Steinberg and Moorad claim is a breach of an employment contract each had signed. At stake are commissions that Dunn and his co-defendents have earned since negotiating contracts for several former Steinberg clients.

With the outcome of the lawsuit still months in the offing -- depositions are still under way -- the NFLPA doesn't want this case to hinder an athlete's ability to change agents. The NFLPA allows players to freely change agents as long as the player provides the current agent with five days' notice.

Steinberg has declined to discuss the case with ESPN.com and ESPN The Magazine, which profiled Steinberg in its most recent edition.

Jeff Gordon
It hasn't quite been all smiles for Jeff Gordon off the track.
Titillating tale
Jeff Gordon might want to keep the details of his wife Brooke's filing for divorce quiet, but the problem is many people want to know about it. From the time news broke of her filing for divorce on Friday to Monday when Jeff confirmed it, searches for Brooke Gordon skyrocketed by 400 percent on Google, according to Eileen Rodriguez, a spokesperson for the Internet search engine.

Since its posting on ESPN.com, the Gordon divorce story has been e-mailed more than 8,000 times, making it the most sent story since ESPN.com began offering to send links for readers last year. Before the Gordon divorce story, the most sent on the site was the Nov. 6, 2001 story about Nate Newtons arrest for alleged intent to distribute 213 pounds of marijuana.

Selig, MLB strike out with fans with financial claims
Although the majority of the general population wasn't happy with the way Major League Baseball handled contraction and didn't believe the $519 million in losses the league documented in its congressional testimony, most fans are not any less of a fan of the sport, according to a recent Harris Interactive poll.

Bud Selig
Bud
Selig
Of 10,245 people polled three weeks ago, 82 percent said they did not believe Major League Baseball's claim that teams have lost a collective $519 million over the past year, as the league told Congress in December it did. Fifty-one percent did not like how baseball commissioner Bud Selig handled his testimony before Congress, and 55 percent gave Selig an unfavorable rating on the way he handled the threat of contraction.

Despite the sport's offseason troubles and the lack of support for baseball's leader, only 16 percent said they were less of a baseball fan than they were last season.

Reverse discrimination?
Since an intramural basketball team at Northern Colorado began calling itself the "Fighting Whites" last month in order to call attention to racial stereotyping involved with schools that have ethnic mascots, the students -- some of whom are Native American -- have sold more than $25,000 worth in merchandise, said team member Jeff VanIwarden.

The logo, which features a caucasian man in a suit and tie with the slogan "Every thang's gonna to be all white!" has become quite popular. Baseball jerseys, tanktops and sweatshirts can be ordered on the team's recently launched Web site. VanIwarden said the money collected will go either to a Native American scholarship fund or help defray costs for a high school that decides to change its nickname to become politically correct.

A little bit of exposure goes a long way
Although the NCAA usually covers up most corporate signage in arenas during March Madness, companies that have stadium naming rights and have their names on the floor receive significant value.

Edward Jones, a brokerage firm that bought the naming rights to the former TWA Dome in St. Louis two months ago, received $6.7 million in equivalent television advertising time from the five games played on its court during the first two rounds of the men's tournament, according to Eric Wright of Joyce Julius, a sponsorship evaluation firm. Wright said 90 percent of the exposure for the company -- which will pay $2.9 million annually for the rights for the next 12 years -- came from the baseline, where the words "Edward Jones Dome" were on display.

Other companies that received significant exposure from stadium naming rights include Arco (Sacramento, Calif.), Bi-lo (Greenville, S.C.), American Airlines (Miami), United (Chicago) and MCI (Washington).

Tim Hardaway
Tim Hardaway, left, executed a perfect bounce pass with a courtside TV.
The magic of TV
After being ejected from Friday night's game against the Orlando Magic, Denver guard Tim Hardaway tossed a press-row television onto the court in disgust. Magic forward Darrell Armstrong picked up the TV, its surrounding plastic cracked but screen still intact, and put it back in its proper place.

An Orlando Magic employee had Armstrong and Hardaway sign the television following the game, and the team is now auctioning it off for charity. "Now that the signatures are on the screen, you probably won't be watching TV on it, but it's still cool," said Michelle Andres, corporate communications manager for the team. A memorabilia collector can buy the TV for $5,000 now or bid on the item at a charity gala on April 6. Proceeds will benefit the Orlando Magic Youth Foundation.

Mascots united
Seventeen of the 21 NFL mascots are meeting in New York City this week to discuss topics ranging from skits and props to party rates. Mascots typically earn between $100 and $500 per hour for parties, depending on the mascot's popularity and seniority of the performer, said Ryan Hughes, assistant to "Swoop," the Philadelphia Eagles mascot. In the coming days, the mascots will appear on MTV's "Total Request Live" and NBC's "The Today Show."

Stock watch
As news circulated this week that NFL owners would not exercise their option to buy 49.9 percent of the Arena Football League, shares of stock for the Orlando Predators (NASDAQ: PRED) -- an AFL team that owns 4 percent of the indoor football league -- have plummeted. On Tuesday morning, the stock opened at $3.50. By Thursday, the stock had steadily declined to $1.80 a share. The NFL has until March 31 to exercise its option or apply for an extension.

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at darren.rovell@espn.com