Friday, June 2Welcome

Negotiation skills learned from the business side of sports

The business side of sports can be a wealth of lessons on what to do and what not to do in negotiations. Player contract terms, trades between teams, labor negotiations, broadcast rights, and more are regularly in the news. Digging into the details of a particular deal may reveal interesting lessons for your own negotiations.

Consider Franco Harris, the famous running back of the Pittsburgh Steelers. For those of us who remember, Harris was on the verge of breaking professional football’s all-time rushing record when his contract was renewed.

When Harris broke that record, the Steelers figured they wanted Harris to wear a Steeler uniform, and Harris’ agent began negotiations with Steelers owner Art Rooney. Rooney reminded Harris’ agent that Harris’ knee was not good.

Nonetheless, Rooney recognized Harris’ value to the team and the city of Pittsburgh.Although Harris was not as strong or capable as before, Rooney offered him a one-year contract without changing the terms. . Harris’ agent countered and asked for a guaranteed big price increase. Amazingly, even though Rooney believed Harris wouldn’t be able to make it through the entire season, he agreed to the raise and guarantee.

But Harris’ attorneys continued to demand a second year with an increase and a guarantee. Additionally, he threatened to go to the media if the Steelers refused the request.

Instead of donning a Steelers uniform at the end of his career, Harris signed a modest contract with the newly formed Seattle Seahawks. According to one report, Harris was cut from the Seahawks mid-season. Another source said that Harris’ knee hurt and he was unable to play.

Regardless, he didn’t finish the season and break the league rushing record. Harris got more money, but the Seahawks can’t get the running back they wanted was.

What happened between Harris and the Steelers? In my opinion, negotiations fell through because Harris’ agent threatened to go public. Strategies based on blaming and shaming the other side through the media typically reinforce, polarize, and complicate dynamics.

Behind the scenes, many stakeholders and influencers are often involved in the situation. Once published, additional parties must be involved and their interests met, creating more complex issues that hinder or slow prospects for the deal.

Harris’ agent could have avoided negotiations had Rooney acknowledged that he owns the team. To mitigate any aggression or resentment on Rooney’s part, Harris’ agents could ask for an opportunity to resubmit the counteroffer. could have provided.

what is the prize?

Good negotiators don’t negotiate tough in all cases. Rather, they read the situation accurately and adapt to win the prize.

In Harris’ case, after multiple Super Bowl wins with legendary teams, the “prize money” wasn’t a two-year contract, even if there was a security deposit. The prize was Harris’ place in the history books as a stealer, and every player, coaching staff, front office, and fan came together to help him break that record. I was offered a yearly guaranteed raise.

There can be unfortunate consequences from the decisions athletes make regarding their personal finances. Boxer Mike Tyson bought his $2.7 million home in Connecticut. He invested another $1 million in the upgrade, and a year later the house he put up for $22 million. Naturally, he didn’t get the offer.

Tyson lowered the asking price to $12.9 million. No offers yet. He dropped it to $5 million again. Again, no offers. Tyson then took his house off the market. Ultimately, rapper 50 Cent bought the house for his $4.1 million. Surprisingly, 50 Cent did the same. He invested his $6 million and listed the house for $18.5 million. 17 years later, it was sold for $2.9 million.

The lesson here is if you can support your numbers. You don’t have to have the best argument, but a plausible one will suffice. Credibility and respect come from acknowledging assumptions and doubts. Keeping it real can generate better deals. And keep the media out of it.

Jeff Trueman, Esq. is an independent mediator, arbitrator, and adjunct professor at the University of Maryland’s Francis King Carey School of Law. You can contact him at

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