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Archive for November, 2011


Nov 10 2011

Man on a Mission: Sonny Vaccaro Addresses SIM Students

by at 3:45 pm

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By Stephanos Stroop

Horatio Alger defined the American Ideal of pulling oneself up by their bootstraps.  Sonny Vaccaro lived this ideal and then some. 

Georgetown SIM students had the privilege of hearing from the former executive of Nike then Reebok then Adidas expound on his path to success then his crusade to fix the monster he created.  Known by some as the Godfather of Grassroots Basketball, Vaccaro came from humble beginnings in Trafford, PA.  After making it to college on a basketball scholarship and graduating, he took his first leap of faith by starting the Dapper Dan Roundball Classic.  This event lasted over forty years.

 The opportunity to work with Nike represented the next monumental moment of his career.  Nike dominated the marketplace as a running and track shoe; however, they desired to get into basketball.  At this point, Vaccaro’s Dapper Dan Roundball Classic was an established event.  To help Nike reach the basketball market, Vaccaro followed his belief that “kids sell products.”  Therefore, he targeted college programs and offered coaches a deal of free shoes as well as paying the coaches.  This was unheard of at the time but in one year they went from a handful of teams wearing Nike shoes to over eighty schools having their basketball player’s feet covered in Nike. 

 Mr. Vaccaro acknowledged he would not be where he is today without Nike.  As his career progressed he was involved in such big deals as signing Michael Jordan, being part of the “It’s gotta be the shoes” campaign, and the first all-school deal with the University of Miami.  All of these events culminated in professionalism of amateur sports.

 This point of the lecture represents a fundamental shift in the perspective of the talk.  He went from businessman to crusader.  For Mr. Vaccaro, “it is how you frame the picture.”  He believes there to be a huge disconnect between the schools, the players, and those governing.  He also believes the athlete has the right to be compensated as well as to be a student. 

 He went on to go into more detail concerning the irony of the title “student-athlete.”  The phrase “student-athlete” was coined in order for schools to avoid paying workman’s compensation for athletes injured while representing their respective school.  According to Mr. Vaccaro, the title should be “student earner.”  Ninety percent of revenue generated in NCAA sports comes from football and basketball.  However, students are not able to capitalize on their market value.  The irony behind the whole Cam Newton saga is that the school made more money off his jersey than what his father was asking for him during the recruiting process. 

 This background history plus Sonny seeing multiple players over the years taken advantage of led to his help in the Ed O’Bannon case. Ed O’Bannon is a former UCLA basketball player who won the John Wooden Award as well as a National Title.  He is suing the NCAA over the revenue generated from his likeness.  Other athletes have joined the case as co-plaintiffs.  Mr. Vaccaro is an unpaid consultant in this case providing unprecedented insight for the plaintiffs.  He believes this case will go to court and that they will win shocking the entire system now in place.

From listening to him speak, he may have been all over the place but what shined through was his passion for what he was doing and that he cared about the kids.  It was a wonderful treat being able to listen to Mr. Vaccaro speak.  We all look forward to seeing where his current endeavor takes him. 

No responses yet | Categories: SIM Speaker Series

Nov 01 2011

DeMaurice Smith Speaks with SIM Students

by at 11:10 am

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By Cepand Alizadeh

During the course of the lockout, I relied on traditional sports media sources such as ESPN and CNN/SI to get the latest updates to the CBA negotiations. Unfortunately, many journalists were having difficulties giving satisfactory reports on what was being said at the bargaining table. I constantly asked myself, “What are the owners and players really talking about behind those closed doors?”

            Georgetown SIM students had the one of a kind opportunity to hear from NFLPA President DeMaurice Smith during their Sports Law & Negotiations class last week. Smith provided students with insight into the collective bargaining discussions that was not available during the lockout. Not only did he give a succinct timeline to the NFL lockout, he also framed last Wednesday’s class discussion around the legal concept of “leverage”, or one’s ability to use a small or perceived advantage to bring about a large benefit for one’s side.

At one point, the NFL owners had all the leverage in the negotiations as a mediator decreed that the owners were entitled to keep the $4 billion from television contracts in case the 2011 NFL season was lost. A few weeks later, this ruling was overruled by a judge, and negotiating power started to sway back to the NFLPA’s side.

Over the course of the next few weeks, the NFLPA gained more leverage. It informed the owners that in 2009, the Players Association had set up a lockout insurance fund for players, giving each NFL player $200,000 if the 2011 season was lost to labor strife. Smith argues that this piece of information ultimately gave the players the leverage over the discussions because players could afford to sit out the season without losing any money. Once the NFLPA had the leverage over the negotiations, the stage was finally set for the sides to come to a new collective bargaining agreement.

Smith is gregarious, and is a very entertaining speaker. He credits his ability to engage the audience from the fact that he “comes from a family of Baptist ministers.” What impressed me the most was Smith’s willingness to speak frankly with the audience on any topics that students deemed pertinent. A majority of his time was actually spent answering student questions!

Students at Georgetown University have the good fortune of studying sports management in close proximity to the most influential leaders of the sports industry. Having had the opportunity to hear from DeMaurice Smith is one of many great experiences I have had at Georgetown thus far, and one that I will certainly cherish for the rest of my career.

No responses yet | Categories: Uncategorized

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