LS: There is no system that could ever work in the individualized world of athletes and athletic performances. Some players have the ability to draw fans or are more important in terms of a team. The team has the right to value those players the way it chooses. Look, one of the major mistakes agents make is narrowly defining their roles as simply putting more dollars into the bankbook of their players. I don't want to represent the highest-priced players in a dying sport or send athletes out into a society that doesn't respect them.
SI: Why are you only interested in handling athletes who are model citizens?
LS: For good or ill, athletes trigger imitative behavior. They can use their high profiles to help shape attitudes. If a player is willing to accept the economic largesse that the sport gives him, then I believe he has special obligations. Now, if he disagrees with that, there are many other people in the world who will be happy to represent him.
SI: Why should athletes have to be role models? What's wrong with their just being athletes?
LS: The problem that the athlete has is that he's surrounded by externals—adulation, newspaper clippings, money, people who like him because he's an athlete—all of which fade when his career is over. If he hasn't built a strong sense of self-respect, settled in a community where he's cared for and cares for other people, and come to understand that those values will transcend a short football, baseball or basketball career, then he's in for a rude awakening when he leaves sports. We're trying to prepare the athlete with values and friendships that can last a lifetime.
SI: You're preparing them with values?
LS: Excuse me. They come with values. That's not what I meant to say. What we're trying to do is stimulate values.
SI: Stimulate? In what way?
LS: We ask our athletes to think about a way to retrace their roots and go back to the high school and collegiate levels and set up programs that enhance the quality of life. My players have established something like 47 high school scholarship funds. For Warren Moon, it's the Crescent Moon Foundation, which he endowed with a couple of hundred thousand dollars. He's raised large amounts of money for things like prenatal counseling and gang counseling. I understand that cynical people in the 1990s look at everything in life as a scam, a gimmick, a p.r. ploy. But these athletes really care about the programs they set up.
SI: Some cynical people say other agents' athletes support charities quietly but yours do it for maximum publicity value.