This is a continuation
of my exclusion discussion with ESPN columnist, on-air personality, and
Chi-Town native Scoop Jackson. In Part II of this intriguing and engaging
inerview, Scoop and I discuss a wide range of topics, from what finally made
him finally say yes to ESPN, the uniqueness of his contract, race and the
business of sports, his thoughts on the legality of sports teams banning Twitter, and comments attached to ESPN articles. Read Part I of Scoop's
You want to have your voice be heard or you have freedom to say whatever it is you want to say.
Right! If you retain that freedom... Look, I can understand you losing it, but to me it shouldn't be on your accord unless you want to. And I really didn't want to! (ESPN) came back after that situation a couple of years later. At the time I had left XXL, still dealing with Slam, the editor-in-chief had left Slam had gone over to be editorial director of both the NBA magazines Hoops and Inside Stuff and he pulled me over with him.
So I was doing Slam, doing Hoops, and doing Inside Stuff, and I had also got a call about doing a book for Nike that I had transferred into a contract position to be the chief basketball copyrighter for them. So those were 3 contracts I was juggling at the same time; the Slam contract, the NBA contract, and the Nike contract. So when ESPN came to me and was, "Hey would you be interested in coming out to Bristol and cohosting a segment on our morning show?" I'm like, "Nah!" But we could give you... "No thanks, I'm not...." But they don't get it. Look what I'm dealing with: I'm a brother from 47th St. in Chi that got contracts with the NBA, a magazine I helped get off the ground, and Nike. Why would I leave that to move my family to Bristol, Connecticut?
And then it was about a year after that that Dave Cummings was like "okay, we think we have something for you would be interested in." But it finally came...like, "Alright man, here is the whole package - column on the website, column in the magazine - write stories in the magazine, television appearance, radio stuff..." You know. Boom!
Now we're talkin!
I'm like, now we're talkin! They put an offer on the table that if I had turned it down, you'd be like "you a damn fool!" And that's what you work hard to try to get. But to me that's fair.
As far as your contract with ESPN, it is exclusive.
It is exclusive with first rights of refusal.
So what about this interview?
In this situation I have to tell them before it goes because they don't want to be blindsided.
So before this is ever published I have to have to submit this content to them?
No not at all. I have to tell them I did an interview with this brother. They don't want to be last to hear about it.
That's where they have a problem. Am I in breach in contract by not telling them? No, it's just courtesy.
Your ESPN contract is with Strong Island Media, a company you own. How does that affect your contractual relationship?
Say Sony wants me to do some consulting with them for a basketball video game. Because they are an advertiser for ESPN, I cannot come on and consult, but I can bring someone on, subcontract the service and pay them. My contract is written in a way that my hands are not tied. I can subcontract anything for the company I want.
Example: If some company needed some consulting work done. If Nike, Adidas or Gatorade or something like that and they want to use me. "I can't do it, but I got a guy Exavier Pope I think you might want to look at." Whatever your situation is, I'll get the contract, I'll subcontract you and I'll give it to you and you're fine. It's very simple to make it happen that way and everybody is still gold. And ESPN doesn't have a problem, because legally you're fine. It's your company that has the contract, not you.
Are there other personalities in similar situations with companies?
Like I told you, my situation is very, very unique. I don't know of too many people who have deals like that because they don't have a company in place for the most part.
You talked about having various contracts at the same time. You also talked about the negotiation aspect. Who did you consult in negotiation with these 3 entities, or did you do handle on your own?
I always handled my own contractual situations when I was dealing with Slam and Harris Publications. It was a good faith situation; we kept it very simple. So that was kind of easy. But I always had liberty in the agreement inside my situation with them to do other things. That's one of the things I give Harris Publications and Dennis Page credit for. They never tried to hold me down exclusively. Do your thing, but I'm going to make things hard for you to do your thing because I'm going to keep creating opportunities for you.
But then it came time to go to the NBA and Tony Gervino who was the former editor-in-chief who came to the NBA to handle those magazines said, "Scoop I think you need to meet somebody." And there was a guy named Craig Foster who works at a firm called RLR Associates and they specialize in handling media personnel. People like Bob Costas, Michael Wilbon, you know those types, broadcasters and talent on that level. So Tony said. "You need to talk to them. Your situation is about to go to another level and you're about to deal with NBA as opposed to a small publishing company like Harris. From a contractual standpoint you need representation."
So I flew to New York and met with Craig. From that day on, he handles everything, for every contract I've built up since then. The Nike deal was a little bit easier because it was more like a Harris situation even as large as Nike was, because they just commissioned me to write a book. That's where it started off at. "We're paying to get a book done and were paying an advance to get the book done. That's it. If it takes longer than this, we'll have to pay you." It was very simple. I just needed Craig to look at it and sign off and say cool because Nike was a different entity. As that went on, we just grew it into another situation, which was really simple. Like, "How can we retain your services?" Just put it on paper, write it down, and we'll just handle it. And I had built up such a great relationship over the first year doing the book with Nike, it was easy.
Outside of those two it's been Craig handling all of the business, especially the ESPN contract. My situation is very different, very unique. And I think it is because who is representing me. Craig has other ESPN clients but I think he understands the unique situation I'm in, so mine is a little bit different.
I have clients that are on-air talent. I know corporations have their standard paper. What do you do to make sure you get your wants, needs and asks with a larger corporation on their standard paper?
ESPN takes you through what they call their "car wash". This means you fly to Bristol, Connecticut and you meet all the guys that sign off on you coming to the company. I told them that I'm a team player and I understand the business that you have. I am not at all trying to impede that. But, I need to be able to be me. They were like "we will allow you to be you".
That made it to easier when it came time to draw up a contract as far as what's inside the contract. From a monetary standpoint, I've never been a greedy person at all. Craig knows that. I think he appreciates me as a client because of that. But I know it pisses him off sometimes. Not because of his percentage of getting, but he thinks I sometimes undervalue myself. I purposely undervalue myself so that I still have some freedom.
You're trading a little bit of the monetary for a lot bit of the freedom.
Yeah. And I never want to put myself in a position to have a rug pulled underneath me and I'm lying on my ass. When it came time to make an agreement from what I would get monetarily with ESPN, how it was structured, the year-to-year base salary, all I did was tell Craig, "This is what I'm doing right now. I got these 3 contracts in existence with Nike, Harris and the NBA, and I'm making this. Just up it a little bit and we're good." I didn't take the situation like a lot of people take with ESPN where they are like, "Oh let's get paid now!" I don't operate like that.
My thing is I would rather stretch this amount out over the next 25 years than try to get it all now. Here's an example of how I look at it: Magic Johnson and Larry Bird went through a situation -- and I haven't read the book Jackie MacMullan has done ("When the Game Was Ours") so I'm not sure if they talked about it -- but they renegotiated their last contracts with the Boston Celtics and the Los Angeles Lakers independently but at the same time. Bird got that 3-year deal for $6mil-a-year, so it was $18mil is what he got over the life of that contract. Magic got a 25-year deal for $1mil-a-year. To me, while people were like "Bird gettin' paid!" I'm like," I don't care how you add that up $25mil is more than $18 million!" That's the only thing that made sense to me.
That's the way I cavaliered things. I'll take this over a longer period of time. There's a comfort zone in that approach and way of thinking. Now you look at Magic's situation and look at Bird's situation from a financial standpoint. Who do you think is more secure?
Bird: We in this together man!
Magic (whispering to self): After 3 years we won't.
I'll say Magic.
When you are secure... when you know the next 25 years you are going to get at least 1 million dollars (pounding table) do you know how that gives you the freedom to operate differently?!? Bird, if he doesn't save his money right, he got those 3 years, he got that $18mil stacked up but what happens after that? If you aren't smart, you are searching for money. Ten years later, "I got to find something to do. I got to generate some revenue!"
So stretch the money out.
If you can. I've always taken that under consideration with things that I do. When it came to time to sign with ESPN that's what I stressed to Craig. I wasn't saying low ball them, but let's operate under good faith and fairness.
I'm a little bit different. I'm kind of on-air talent, but I'm still contracted as a columnist. So it doesn't affect me as much as does other on-air individuals. I can see where they are coming from, though. I can also see a bit of contradiction where you have ESPN personalities still doing commercials where you have Dick Vitale selling buffalo wings from Hooters and Mike and Mike (Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg) selling something. You are still limiting them from doing other things. It's kind of dicey.
Wings AND beautiful women?
My agent is awesome with a capital A baby!
For my situation it started affecting me when I first came in but on a much different level. One of the things I did have to do when I first came on to ESPN was sever my contractual relationship with Nike. Nike is one of their biggest advertisers. It would be a conflict of interest because as a columnist I have to be objective. I can wear a piece or two of Nike, but I can't be so egregious so that it's like I'm on their payroll.
I can't show up on First Take with Skip Bayless always wearing suits by Cavelli. I can't make a tie deal with Calving Klein and always wear their ties on the air. Even if it was a handshake agreement. But that doesn't stop me from wearing Calvin Klein ties. Make sense?
You can do so outside in some kind of way.
If I'm walking around, if I decide to wear Air Jordans all the time, that's cool. I can do that. There's nothing wrong. But as far as public appearances...
Any public appearances?
Assigned public appearances, I have to be careful, mindful. But if I happened to be out and my wife and I are at a party and I happened to have some Jordans on and there is a picture taken of me posted on a website or a YouTube video, I have no control over that. It's not like we can't associate with anything.
Otherwise you'd be walking around naked.
I can't be like Sam Jackson walking around always with Kangol hat. That's the way I read into it and that's the way it affects me. They gave a general memo and maybe at some point had a meeting.
Did ESPN relate to you how it specifically affects you?
No. I got the same memo as every else. That's usually the way it goes. Here's the policy, here's the memo, and they'll be another one at the next meeting.
What are some of the bigger pieces you wrote that had legal implications?
Oh man. I did a piece for the Source back in the day on the responsibilities of black athletes having black agents. It pissed David Falk off. We were friends. We had a huge argument about that piece in the foyer of Cavaliers stadium during the 1997 All Star Rookie Game.
Basically we missed his client, Allen Iverson, win the rookie game MVP because (because of the argument lasting so long). [M]y stance was I felt it was time athletes needing to see black individuals as more than just athletes. His thing was "I don't care if you're plaid, an attorney and an agent's job is to get the most amount of money for his client." "I get that," I told him, "[b]ut I'm not concerned about what you do with your client. I'm concerned about what your clients sees as the growth of individuals."
If your client is steadily surrounded by people of his own race and all he sees is them doing what he does then, that is dwarfing our growth. We need to see the African American counterpart of you (speaking about me) It's necessary to see that. If the Allen Iversons, Shaquille O'Neals, the Michael Jordans, the Kobe Bryants don't at all align themselves with you and send business over to that person, then we're never going to grow. Never.
I can never grow. (sniff).
Don't let that be the rest of our people!
You still feel that way today?
Yes. And I get that you have to do what's in the best interests of yourself. (However) I'd like to think there is a semblance of responsibility. It's grown since then. Since that story ran. Hank Thomas with Dwayne Wade. You saw the Goodwins when they first got LeBron James. You see LeBron James with his own boys and they now have clients, guys like Chris Paul.
It's grown since David Falk and I had that conversation. And that's the reason it needs to happen, so that it can grow. Because from there it transfers itself to something bigger. If a brother can do this, then I can see him in a general manager position. If I see someone in a CEO position then I can see someone in an ownership position. We have to be able to see that and it's our responsibility to make that investment within ourselves. I'm not saying everybody has to do it. But it's something that needs to be seen and it has to come from us.
Do you think the perception is although there may be black agents or attorneys that exist, athletes don't trust them because they don't look at them as a professional like they are a guy on the block although they are a professional?
I think it takes time for them to see you like that. They don't give the same restrictions to someone who is white for the most part. But that is us as a society. But the as the old saying goes, "the white man's water is wetter." Same thing often applies across the board. It's not their fault, that's our mentality.
So although David Falk, may be in his day may be able to negotiate the same type contract as Pookie Johnson but Pookie Johnson is not looked at the same way.
No, no, no. David Falk is a special case. I'm saying Pookie Johnson and, to use a white counterpart, Richie Cunningham both can come into this game with the same degrees and with no clients and 9 times out of 10, Richie Cunningham is going to get the client. Because we still believe sometimes the white man's water is wetter. That's my point. My man has a great theory: "black people are willing to put money into a white man's bank but won't let a white person cut our hair." (Laughs.) Think about it. It's not just athletes, it goes across the board, to other African American individuals and how we look at ourselves.
That's why it's so important to see ourselves in so many other things. See growth in ourselves. So that doesn't stay the same for the next generation. And I didn't expect him (David Falk) to understand that. I don't even know if he was trying to hear it. Unfortunately as a journalist in doing that story back then I used him to make a larger example.
Your ability to work with ESPN and be around athletes, has it provided you the opportunity to do business with other personalities or athletes or see how people manage their business relationships?
No, but I saw plenty of that before I worked at ESPN. You see who has good people around them, some people who don't have good people around them. You see people overextending themselves. You see people not doing things in the best interests of their career. You see it all. I'm not going to name names and all that, but there was this athlete who had a $12million-per-year contract. His attorney/agent had his money so tied up he could not buy his mother a $500K house.
He had to get approval for everything he spent his money on?
He didn't know where it was going. Some Bernie Madoff (explicit). Where they tell you, "You concentrate on doin' that, I got everything else."
What about the agent Tank Black who took Vince Carter's money? He was black. How do you think that contributed to the perception of using black attorneys and agents?
It makes it bad. But that's the ying and yang of life. You had LeBron James's boys that made him look good. It only takes one to make everyone look bad. That happens with lawyers, police or teachers.
So your article regarding David Falk it really wasn't necessarily him per se.
That's a problem we always have as journalists. Well, at least I do. In trying to make a point, but actually using people we like, respect and know as an example to get your point across. That's a hard struggle. That's a hard, hard struggle. In the case of David Falk I used him to make a larger example.
Jay Mariotti hates me because I did the same exact thing to him. I'm pretty sure Steve Nash, same thing. Carlos Boozer is probably mad at me right now. It's the exact same thing. In the David Falk case, it wasn't like I was ready to lose friendship. But in order to tell the story to make sense, I have to. Like the Jalen Rose situation with Grant Hill, it was like look, "I'm trying to tell a bigger picture, and unfortunately I have to use you." Collateral damage.
Has any story you've ever written for Slam, XXL, Source, or ESPN expose you to a potential lawsuit?
I'm trying to think of a time at XXL I wrote a story about Ed Lewis (who runs Essence magazine) as somebody having a white wife and he didn't have a white wife. Unless we wrote a response, a correction, an apology, then we were going to get a lawsuit. That's the only thing I could think of right now that had a potential lawsuit.
I could tell I learned a lot doing the book with Nike when we did "Sole Survivor" the legal stuff we had to go through before we printed and published the book. Sitting down with the legal team for 4 days going through every page seeing where there could be a potential lawsuit and having to change certain things. Nike, like ESPN, are looked at as targets for a lot of people. And when you "create" on their dime, they make sure you have an understanding of how they see things and how what you do can affect them.
I particularly remember a situation where I wanted to use the term "These shoes were made for walking," a play on the Nancy Sinatra song. And Nancy Sinatra apparently did not have a good relationship with Nike for whatever reason. And they were like "You've got to change that line." And it was an intricate part of the copy I was trying to use at the time. I was like, "Can't we edit around it?" They were like, "it's not worth it."Couldn't use Chris Webber's name in the book because of his past relationship with Nike and it could impact the use of his name. Couldn't use Frank Weiss, the French player in the Olympics Vince Carter jumped over his head and dunk on him. We couldn't use his image. I'm like "we're talking about the dunk."
Nike said they couldn't use his image because he wouldn't sign off on it and we can't use the image without his consent. All potential lawsuits.
At this time the neighbors who previously spoke to Scoop finish their breakfast and head to the door. I motion to, Gordon, the father figure of the group, to come over. I introduce myself and ask him to tell me anything else readers would want to know about his character. He expounded on that, fatherhood, race, opportunity, and knowing Scoop.
You've know Scoop since childhood. Tell me what you remember about him most?
Gordon: A very courteous young man, academic. Him and his brother both, brought up by a beautiful young lady. They did believe in partying! (laughs)
Scoop: Yeah, we did keep it active.
Gordon: But they were always involved in something. When I saw my man on ESPN, not that he couldn't do it. But man, this is a kid I knew!
Me: So it is important to see those faces.
Gordon:Inspirations such as Scoop, remind these young men "You can do it."
Scoop: That's where the visualization is important.
Gordon: It makes me feel good as an older person. I can say "Yeah, I know him."
Scoop: The man next door to me, they were at the barbershop watching ESPN and I'm on. He said, "That's my man right there, he stayed next door to me." "He don't stay next door to you!" "The man stay next door to somebody, why not me?" We need to stop looking at each other as regular. We need to see each other growing.
Gordon bids us farewell and we continue with the interview.
I recently wrote a piece on the legal analysis athletes using Twitter, and you debated the topic against Skip Bayless recently on First Take. What are your thoughts on the possibility of teams banning social media?
Tell me how they could regulate communication? I get that you want to, but how are you going to implement it? It basically can be done through a collective bargaining agreement, but now you're opening up another can of worms. Their (the owners) position can be: "If we don't come to an agreement on this, we'll suspend the season, we'll take it to the media, and say this is the reason you are not watching football on Sundays and Mondays." From a PR standpoint would make the players look horrible.
It's equivalent to the NBA throwing that dress code policy. It's not like the conduct policy Roger Goddell has intact, because some things are illegal. But implementing a dress code, there is nothing you can do through social communication that is illegal. Not that I can see. It would be like implementing the dress code 24 hours a day.
We all have to deal with certain things inside our agreement with who we work for and/or work with. Like us at ESPN, we have to abide by Disney rules. To me, I think you can increase the consequences for your actions. I think every company, they should do that. The NFL, NBA, go across the board. lay down the law: "Here's the consequences are going to happen if you do this from a social media standpoint." Even if it's subjective. "If you say these things, even if they're subjective, that could be deemed putting our organization in a bad light, here are the possible consequences."
So you are approaching it from a conduct policy perspective.
The same basic premise applies. But the banning...I had the conversation with Bill Daughtry on ESPN New York on the radio on the air going back and forth. And flushing it out with him, I came back and I was like, "Bill I know how it can be done now." And the only way it can be done, from my vantage point is through the collective bargaining agreement. But then again, you're looking at almost a civil rights nightmare. I don't know if the NFL wants go to court on that. They will lose. There's no way you can ban people from communicating, even if it's public.
You write a lot about race and sports. I've seen tons of comments attached to your articles where people are spewing all out racism. How do you respond to that? I've also seen it with other ESPN writers like Jemelle Hill and LZ Granderson where commenters say they are always taking things from a race angle.
I try not to. Whenever I post something, I always understand I am never just speaking my voice. This career is not about me. It's about trying to provide a voice for people who don't have the opportunity to speak. When I get these comments, it's hard for me to feel bad for people coming at me thinking I'm speaking strictly my beliefs, and I am not.
It's just like me talking about Carlos Boozer, Chris Bosh, and Pau Gasol basically disappearing during in the playoffs. Now, Carlos Boozer I know, he's my guy. He's one of the individuals I didn't want to write stuff about. Again, collateral damage. In order get to bigger point across to write about him was stuff I had got from other people just collectively with how the city was feeling about him right now.
A guy earlier today was like "We got to rid of him during the summer." Now here's the deal: I'll write that people want him gone, they want to sit him down, they want this, and they want him gone. Now if Carlos (Boozer) comes to me and is like, "Man I can't believe you wrote that I can't believe you feel that way." I don't feel that way. I may be the vessel, but this is not how I feel individually.
This is what is being said. I'm writing what's being said, not necessarily how I personally feel. Not always. Not even most of the times. But I am writing things from a standpoint that not many see. Everybody doesn't look at it this way. They personalize it that you feel this way. I'm grounded in that they are not looking at it from my vantage point. They think I'm writing the way I personally feel. As Chuck D said, "Never question what I am. God knows, because it's coming from the heart."
"I shut 'em down!"
You get more venom than anyone else I feel.
One, I say things differently. There's a different level of conviction of the different approach. I try not to dance around everything. I try saying things smartly not smartassly. Other writers can write the same things I write, but the intake is different. It's much like hip hop. An R&B singer can say the same things an emcee says, but the delivery of what the emcee says has more impact. That's where my situation is a little bit different and I get a little more venom for the way it's presented. My mother used to say, "If someone is not yelling and screaming at you you're not doing your job right."
ESPN once censored comments before they were posted. What do you know about that?
I thought when they first started it we shouldn't do it at all. As writers we are not conditioned for that. I understand we are providing some form of entertainment. We are not in the entertainment business to perform. Writers aren't like actors where you are we are conditioned to perform in front of people where you are dealing with an immediate response. We are not singers where you're used to going to stage to get the applause, success or notoriety, where you are used to getting in front of people. We are not athletes. Writers are different. Writers are not used to doing this in front of an audience.
So to throw this at us at this stage, right now -- not the young writers who are just coming up, I'm talkin' bout the vets who have been in this for 15, 20, 30 years and throw this at them think this is not going to affect their craft -- I thought was naive. I had a problem with it. You're about to change the way people write because the direct impact is so immediate. It is going to change the way they approach their craft, do their job. I don't think it's good.
I can't speak on it. It might be something they don't want. But that could be the difference between them and me. I didn't fight for it to be removed from mine, I was fighting for the greater cause it shouldn't be used for anybody. Rick and Bill could have said personally they did not want it. I have a choice not to read.
Do you read the comments?
Rarely, very rarely. It got to a point I stopped going through my mailbag because I had to shift through so much stuff to find something constructive that I actually I could use. People hide behind the internet. We always say at meetings at ESPN, the minute you respond to somebody through a comment or a mailbag, all of sudden they're apologizin'. Like "I'm sorry (in a sorry voice). I'm just an internet bully." Then again I don't read comments from other people pages either. I don't read someone's column or my column then read off comments that people write to validate my personal opinions. I'm not that dude.
Scoop, thanks for spending time with me. You now have ExP.
Exavier B. Pope, Esq. is an entertainment and sports attorney and legal blogger for Chicago Now. All opinions expressed are those solely of Mr. Pope.
(c) 2011, Exavier Pope
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