Inspiring People

Professor, Attorney and Author, Kenneth Shropshire

Kenneth Shropshire

Kenneth L. Shropshire, the David W. Hauck Professor at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, is the author of several award-winning books such as The Business of Sports, The Business of Sports Agents, The Sports Franchise Game, In Black and White, Sports and the Law, and Basketball Jones. His expert views have been presented in Wall Street Journal, Sports Illustrated, National Public Radio, and Nightline.

A Stanford and Columbia Law graduate, Shropshire previously worked in private law practice and as an executive with the LA Olympic Organizing Committee. He is also the Director  of the Wharton Sports Business Initiative. He serves as an arbitrator with clients including the National Football League Players Association and USA Track and Field. Shropshire is also Special Counsel at the law firm Duane Morris LLP.

DR: Can you tell me about your work?

KS: I am kind of in three places. My day job is a Professor at the Wharton School focused on the sports industry and that's really where this more recent high-level focus on using sport to change the world has come into play. In real life I am also a lawyer specializing in sports related matters. I do, via the professor route, a fair amount of consulting on the business side of sports.

To zero in on sports and the social impact of sports, I started getting more and more contact from places like Peace Players International, an organization that uses sport for conflict resolution and grass roots soccer using sport to educate people about HIV. I started teaching a class called Sports and Social Impact just to see where kids were with regard to this topic. About fifty students signed up. They were curious about how to use sports to do positive things.

It all really came together and merged about six years ago. I started going to South Africa and through a series of circumstances I started looking at The Royal Bafokeng Nation, which is a 300,000-person tribe that focuses their money using sport as a vehicle for development. They sit on the world's largest platinum deposit so they have the resources to do this.

I started going down there to watch and see how successful a society could be in actually using sport for development. They got the rights to the platinum and the royalties from the platinum in 1999. This was a post-apartheid society. Pretty quickly, with the money coming in, they started seeing western ailments like hypertension and diabetes and things like that. I was fortunate enough to develop relationships and I was going back and forth pretty frequently before and after The World Cup. Now, that little society is the basis for this book that I am writing called Can Sport Save the World?

I went to the Olympics this past summer to talk to people and see what was going on in terms of the positive legacy that they hope to have as a result of hosting The Games. Consider Brazil and the fact that they are doubling up with the World Cup and the Olympics and that this is their decade of sport. Any society that you don't typically think of as wealthy in the sense that you could be like London and "it's not going to kill you if this thing goes bad", it makes me wonder why is Brazil doing this and why is South Africa doing this and why do we still think of sport as this positive vehicle on so many levels?

What I am trying to do is investigate whether we should invest this much in sport? What would happen if we didn't and from an historical perspective, why do we do it? And, on a more micro level, what's the impact on the African American community? The idea of high school kids over the past few years, not just going to the NBA straight out of high school but these kids have gone over seas out of high school in lieu of even thinking about going to college and is that a way for us to participate in the world or is it crazy? And, should we be fighting against it? Should we be paternalistic and not be upset when people have rules that say that you can not go to the pros until you've spent a year in college? Should we actually be more supportive of sending the message that "sport is not the only answer"?

DR: That brings me to the obvious question to you, which is, in your opinion, "Can sport save the world?"

The Financial Future for March Madness Stars? Much Depends on the Advisors Around Them

by Kenneth Shropshire

As we watch the stars on the hard courts in "March Madness" it is appropriate to pause and wonder where will they be after their playing days are done? The NCAA is reviling us with the commercials emphasizing that most college athletes are going pro in "something else," but what about those who do turn pro? And what will become of them once their playing days are done?

The athlete success stories are definitely under told. The multiple businesses of NBA all-stars and NCAA tournament veterans Magic Johnson and Jamal Mashburn are indicative of the success some have had. Add to that success list too former Princeton baller Bill Bradley in politics. Beyond basketball, consider the Super Bowl's most valuable player, Joe Flacco, the proud recipient of a $120.6 million contract, alongside option bonuses of $15 million and $7 million, and superstar Ray Lewis, who, in retirement, has recently joined a new team: ESPN. Let's not leave out baseball, with Alex Rodriguez in the midst of a $275 million contract running through 2017. Then what?

Click here to read more at The Huffington Post

KS: Saving the world is too big a task for any one thing. In the development literature there is all this stuff about ending poverty and ending world hunger and the conclusion there is rapidly becoming that we can't find one big answer but we can certainly say that there are pieces of what people are doing that we can adopt and use more widely – ways to grow wheat in barren areas or whatever it may be. So, a lot of these sports programs work very well and we should highlight those as things that we can do with sport that are successful. So, of course sport can't save the world but there are a lot of things that it can do that are positive.

The other thing that somebody might conclude is that cities should not make great investments in stadiums and arenas because they don't bring in much business and they don't make us feel that good and that those dollars are better spent on better public schools and that if New York lost the Yankees or the Giants, so what? The city would be better off spending that money feeding kids or something like that. So, again, can sport save the world? No. But, lets think more about the achieving right perspective...

DR: So, inside of that question then are you examining the participant as well as the spectator? Because I initially considered the question had more to do with what sport develops in people that actually play.

KS: That's a great question. Actually The Clinton Global Initiative and Nike both looked at this issue of what is important about sport and both concluded, as did The First Lady, that what is important is that we move more and that we could solve a lot of our problems health-wise if people would move more. There are some amazing studies out there that address how much less energy we use because we don't physically roll up windows anymore and we don't have to get up to change the channel on the television anymore. We just don't move and if we did there would be fewer health issues. So, in that sense, the idea of promoting participation in sport is a positive and it's hard to find where it is not a global positive.

DR: I happen to think that sports are fundamental much like the arts are fundamental. I have a great respect for what sports contributes to developing certain abilities like being able push boundaries and be able to work effectively on a team and to concentrate and focus on accomplishing a seemingly impossible goal...My husband insists that he can tell pretty quickly if someone has participated in sports throughout their life based on the way that they interact with other people or the way that they think of themselves...Can you talk about that aspect of sport and how your work might be evolving around that?

KS: It's funny you say that about your husband. I do the same thing. Often in life, the people that you want on your team are the people who have been on a team before. You want to work with people that have a particular way of thinking about goals...I do some work for the NFL and one of the people I enjoy working with the most is a former player who just has this passion for getting things done and is very positive about accomplishing things. There are other people that have similar characteristics like people in the military. I assume that there are a lot of ways to develop these skills. Sport just happens to be a very fun way.

Can you get people to be task oriented in a universal way where you are speaking the same language when you don't actually speak the same language?

When I met the King of The Royal Bafokeng Nation, the first thing he introduced himself to me as, was a sportsman. He played Rugby as a kid. That struck me. Boy, what a way to introduce yourself.

DR: With regard to children and perhaps taking your work into schools, how do you see it contributing to kids developmentally?

KS: So that also takes me back to South Africa...I went out there and we were talking about sports in schools and they said, "We are trying to figure out how we will be putting sport into our schools (within The Royal Bafokeng Nation, within this 300,000 person kingdom)". So I said "You guys don't have sport?" And they said "No not really. Under apartheid the government didn't want the Black schools to have sport and the benefits that flow from it. So between that and money, we just didn't have it. So now, because we have this wealth, we have a chance to put sport in schools and we are trying to figure out how best to do it."

That is really fascinating to me because I started thinking about if we had the chance to do it over again in The States, how could we do it differently?

I started looking at the whole history of sport in schools and a lot of it is based on two paths. Andrew Carnegie and these kinds of characters were saying that they didn't have employees that knew how to work well together. The military was saying the same thing. So sport began to be put into schools...

DR: That makes a lot of sense...

KS: So, it starts off as, "We want to train you to work on a team..."

DR: And to me it all sort of plays into the whole, "Lets build a more effective labor force..."

KS: And then, where does it really go haywire? I think of Friday Night Lights. Now you have to win because it's for your town...

DR: Well that's exactly where my thinking was going. When does it become something other than what it was intended to be?

KS: Right. So how do you get back to, and this gets back to South Africa, how do you get back to more mass participation? Because if it's good, then how do we keep people in it longer? Because the more it goes from recess to "Are you on the varsity team", the less likely you were to still be a part of real sport and that's how it may start to fall out of your life. The Bafokeng Nation sort of thinking was, "We have to think about the sports pyramid model where you have a lot of people at the base but how do we keep the base participating longer while providing for the elite at the top?"

So, you have tilted me in the right direction. This idea of participating in sport is very positive - at the school level and on a mass level. Then, you shift to the economic impact and how deeply you should invest and how important is the more elite sport and that kind of thing...

This is the life of a professor - you find something to think about and you think about it a lot. So that is the space I'm in. I am on leave this whole year and trying to think through that.

DR: What is your favorite part of what you do? Teaching? Writing? Researching?

KS: Probably actually seeing stuff happen in the end is my favorite thing. It can be something small.

In the Sport and Social Impact course we did a project for this little entity called Galz and Goals in Namibia and it was about helping to provide education about HIV prevention, which is a common theme with these sports things for Namibian girls. This team of students was helping this small little NGO put together different pieces from how to use cell phones to how to set up a website that would help them get global donations. That kind of thing is really great. Or, to see NFL players come into a classroom, learn about business management and entrepreneurship and then two years later stillbe in touch with them...This kid Jeremy Bloom was doing a television interview and he gave credit to The Wharton School and this program that we did. So that kind of thing is great.

I love teaching. I love writing too...

DR: A hundred years from now what do you want to be remembered for?

KS: That I had great kids. I am still in the midst of them right now. My daughter is a sophomore at Stanford and my son, who plays tennis and is being recruited by several schools, is trying to figure out where he is going to go. I want them to turn out right.

I guess the older you get the more you think about that and the more you lose people you start to think about these things. If they turn out right I think that means I did something right.

Thanks Ken!

The Business of Sports Agents

"A timely look at the business, legal and ethical aspects of the athlete representation business. The authors spotlight the unsavory side of the business, from improper payments to student athletes to agents defrauding their pro clients. They offer a series of possible cures, including tougher regulation of agents and changing the way we think of amateurism."
- Street and Smith's SportsBusiness Journal

The legendary Charles C. "Cash and Carry" Pyle, considered by most to be the first sports agent, negotiated a $3,000-per-game contract for Red Grange to play professional football for the Chicago Bears in 1933. Today, salaries in the tens of millions of dollars are commonplace, and instead of theatrical promoters and impresarios, professionally trained businessmen and lawyers dominate the business. But whereas rules and penalties govern the playing field, there are far fewer restrictions on agents. Incidents of agents' manipulating athletes, ranging from investment scams to outright theft of a player's money, are far too frequent, and there is growing consensus for reform.

In The Business of Sports Agents, Kenneth L. Shropshire and Timothy Davis, experts in the fields of sports business and law, examine the history of the sports agent business and the rules and laws developed to regulate the profession. They also consider recommendations for reform, including uniform laws that would apply to all agents, redefining amateurism in college sports, and stiffening requirements for licensing agents. This revised and expanded second edition brings the volume up-to-date on recent changes in the industry, including:

  • the closing of one of the largest agencies
  • high-profile personnel moves
  • passage of the federal Sports Agent Responsibility and Trust Act
  • the National Football League's aggressive and high-profile efforts to regulate agents

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