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January 19, 2017

Athlete-turned-attorney is latest addition to sports law program; here, she talks about industry and what it's like to be an agent

Recognizing that sports is big business, Arizona State University has moved to create the next generation of problem solvers for a global industry that Forbes says could soon exceed a trillion dollars annually.

The Downtown Phoenix campus has been particularly active, with high-profile hires that include media professionals, such as Arizona Republic sports columnist Paola Boivin, and sports executives, including former Major League Baseball Commissioner Bud Selig.

The push from the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication and Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law also includes coursework, with a sports journalism major and a one-year sports law graduate program, which was unique when it was formed in 2014.  

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Attorney and sports agent Dana Hooper

The Super Bowl and baseball’s spring training are weeks away and the NBA season is turning toward its second half, giving ASU Now an opportunity to hear from one of the newest faculty members, sports agent Dana Hooper, a shareholder at international multi-practice law firm Greenberg Traurig, LLP.

Hooper, who joined the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law last month, is teaching a three-credit class called “Professional Sports Law” in spring 2017. Recognized as a “Rising Star” by Super Lawyers magazine every year since 2012, the 2004 ASU grad is a certified athlete’s agent who provides legal representation to sports-oriented individuals and businesses.

She also played soccer in college at the University of California, Berkeley, helping shape her perspective on the multibillion-dollar industry. She spoke with ASU Now about her experiences in professional sports, what it’s like to be at the negotiation table and about her class. 

Question: Were you a sports fan or athlete before you became an agent?

Answer: Yes. Sports have always been a big part of my life. My father worked for the Phoenix Suns and that in turn also led to an opportunity for me to work for the Suns and Mercury. I was behind the scenes interacting with the players and working games. I believe that helped me to develop an approach that was different than the average person. I was also a soccer player in college and had the opportunity to work in the athletic department at the University of California, Berkeley. From the time I was a young child, I played sports and was exposed to a lot of athletes of several different calibers, and it made me a fan from a unique perspective.

Q: How did you enter the field?

A: I was playing soccer in an adult tournament, and I was placed on a team with some professional players. One of the players was a young woman from England who was getting ready to move to New York because she was offered a professional contract to play there after being with Arsenal since she was a teenager. She said, “I heard you’re an attorney. I’m from England, and I don’t know what I’m doing with this contract. I was wondering if you’d consider being my agent?” I told her I wasn’t an agent but would be happy to review her contract. I knew soccer and I knew the law, so I was happy to help her. I asked her to allow me to represent her pro bono because I had never done this type of work before and wanted to navigate the waters and be open about that. She also had a teammate who needed the same help.

From there, I visited them in New York to figure out what their lives were like, where they lived, what kind of challenges they faced, what their training was like. I met the owners of the team, the president, the coaches, and I then took the team out to dinner and got to know them as individual human beings.  From there, it started snowballing and people were contacting me, asking me if I’d represent them. That’s really how it started.

Q: One of the biggest finds in a new biography about a large Hollywood agency is that revenue from their sports division now dwarfs their film and television divisions. When, in your opinion, did this paradigm shift take place?

A: I think it took place about 10 years ago when sports and entertainment started melding together from a business perspective. It became prominent when athletes and agents started recognizing if they somehow get into mainstream television and media spots, that could be very lucrative. The agencies have done a good job focusing and capitalizing on athletes who have marketability and getting them into the entertainment space. That’s great because my sports practice has been able to cross over with the robust entertainment practice at my firm.

Q: The public’s perception of the sports agent is mostly formed through the 1996 movie “Jerry Maguire,” starring Tom Cruise. Was it authentic?

A: Twenty years ago I wasn’t in the business, so I couldn’t really opine as to my specific knowledge base of that time period. But I can tell you when I was working with the Phoenix Suns years ago, the agent was not as visible or prominent. Nobody knew who the agents were. Their names weren’t on the ticker, and social media did not exist. The profession 20 years ago was a very behind-the-scenes concept, but now you do know the big names of the NFL and NBA agents. If you land one or two big names — a LeBron James or a Larry Fitzgerald — your name is also known as their agent. That can be both good and bad. If you’re doing what you need to be doing for your client, it should be done behind the scenes in my opinion. To me, it’s all about the athlete.

Q: When you take on a client, do you also vet him or her?

A: I do. I need for it to be a team effort, and I have to be on the same page as my athletes. I don’t take on every athlete that comes to me. I have to be very careful and vet them like they have to vet me. I look at it as we’re both hiring each other. It’s not just about business but about the relationship that you’re going to have with your athlete. I can’t have someone on the other end who is not responsible, or is not professional, or dishonest to me.

Q: Determining an athlete’s worth and compensation probably involves a lot of intangibles.

A: There are a lot of factors involved — the individual athlete’s experience, their position — a point guard is likely not going to compare well to a center in terms of monetary value. Positions matter. Their performance matters. If somebody is a rookie, for example, there are certain parameters that each league has. There’s minimums and maximums.

There’s also a salary cap, which is different for each league and different for each gender. Sometimes a prominent athlete is willing to take less if they are going back to their hometown. Or maybe there wasn’t salary-cap room for a player, but they’ve always wanted to play for a certain coach. Or it could be a trade and a team can’t go past their salary cap and you’ve got to figure something out. Some deals are struck very quickly while others take months and months and months to iron out. There are a lot of different factors.

My motto is if I’m not a little bit embarrassed about what to ask for then it’s too low. But you don’t want to be so outlandish that they don’t take you seriously. It’s a juggling act.

Q: How do you continue to maintain a relationship with a sports organization when you’re continually at the opposite end of the negotiation table?

A: Everybody’s approach is different, but my approach is, “You’re about to become teammates with this athlete. So if we enter into this negotiation in a negative manner, it is not going to go well.” I prefer to enter into negotiations in a very businesslike yet friendly approach if possible. Now, that doesn’t mean that this approach may need to turn on its head because it has. It can go awry if the athlete is being mistreated or if the ownership is stonewalling the athlete. There have been situations where the athlete has been retaliated against, and you have to be able to manage all of those things that come with it.

For the most part I have very good relationships with the teams I negotiate against, but there’s always going to be that rub. You’re supposed to negotiate against somebody, but then you’re all supposed to hug in the end and love each other and be on the same team. It’s a very bizarre situation.

Q: Can you tell me what your class will look like and what you want to convey to students?

A: The class I’m teaching is “Professional Sports Law,” and it will have a variety of different angles. It’ll cover anything from intellectual property to what it means to be an agent to gender and race issues in professional sports. I will try to approach it in a practical way. Students who will take this class will either be interested in the law, business or both environments.

I would like for them to be reading the text and the materials and discussing it from more of a practical perspective. It doesn’t mean there’s not that academic flow throughout the class, but I want students to move away from frantically reading the assignments because they’re afraid they’re going to get called on from a case in 1983. I want it to be more about, “Gee, I read this case from 1983 — how could this help me in what I do whatever branch of the law I choose to represent?” I want them to be able to sock that away in their tool kit and pull it out when they become a practitioner of some sort. I want students to be able to use this information in their practical, everyday lives after they graduate and move into the “real world.”

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Make it at 'mkrspace': ASU hub of creative creation

ASU celebrates #Hayden50 years by looking to the future with "Maker Monday."
Library's mkrspace helps students, professors explore creative ways to learn.
Don't know how to use mkrspace's equipment? Don't worry; staff is there to help.
January 20, 2017

For 50th anniversary, Hayden Library hosts event to show off tech-based DIY center

In the past year, news organizations from The Atlantic to Fortune to Scientific American have reported on the “maker movement,” a technology-based extension of do-it-yourself culture that emphasizes learning through doing in a social environment. A November NPR story noted that the movement is alive in both community and school settings.

One of the schools where maker culture is being embraced is Arizona State University, whose Hayden Library is hosting “Maker Monday” Jan. 23 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. in its second-floor “mkrspace,” in celebrationThe official 50th anniversary celebration will take place Wednesday, Jan. 25, at 4 p.m. Hayden Library on the Tempe campus. of the library’s 50th anniversary.

Barely a year old, the mkrspace is just one of a growing number of spaces across ASU offering a host of “mkrservices” that include access to 3-D printers, sewing machines, vinyl cutting, book scanning, film and studio space, and more.

“The mkrspace and what we’re doing with all of the mkrservices is tied to how we’re rethinking the library,” head of research and development for ASU Libraries Philip Konomos said. “This isn’t the library of 10 years ago. … It’s not about books anymore, it’s about learning spaces where students can collaborate and innovate.”

In addition to the mkrspace, there’s the mkrstudio on the third floor of Hayden Library offering video and audio production, as well as mkrgeo, a geographically themed makerspace on the third floor of Noble Library where students can build landforms and water bodies in the sand, 3-D print architectural models and experiment in cartography with paper maps.

“The vision is to have an overarching maker brand, and then to have instances in multiple libraries that match the needs of the communities that they’re serving,” ASU Libraries administrator Jennifer Duvernay said. “And that ties it into the academic library’s mission, to provide equitable access to resources.”

The services in each space are available to ASU students, faculty and staff free of charge, and there is always staff on hand to assist with any needs.

Joel Smalley, project coordinator for Hayden Library’s second-floor mkrspace, has been there since it opened in the spring of 2016. His business cards rest on his desk in a half-built model of the Eiffel Tower, a “repurposed failed 3-D print.” (The full, successful 3-D print of the tower resides downstairs in Charlie’s Café.)

Like all the staffers in the space — many of whom are student workers — Smalley is well-versed in every tool and piece of machinery. But his latest contribution was less technical, and more human: Smalley was working with a professor who wanted to teach a workshop on 3-D printing when he noticed she was having trouble explaining the intricacies in English.

“I decided to go with her strength and asked if she’d like to teach it in Mandarin,” Smalley said. The professor accepted, and now the mkrspace offers workshops taught entirely in Mandarin, Russian and Arabic.

The professor told Smalley being able to teach and learn in your native language “takes away two barriers: Technology can be intimidating to begin with, and learning about it in a different language can be even more intimidating.”

Inclusivity is another hallmark of the mkrservices.

“One of the inherent challenges with anything as big as ASU is trying to include the diverse student populations, and that’s something that the makerspaces have been really good about,” ASU Libraries communications specialist Brittany Lewis said.

There have even been talks about collaborating with other Arizona universities’ makerspaces on a once-a-week workshop focused on the creative work of self-identified women, trans and femme makers.

“They’re really trying to make it an inclusive space for all communities,” Lewis added, “and if you can get the most diverse amount of people in one space, what can come out of that can be very interesting.”

Working together is not only encouraged but vital to the maker movement. And it’s not just the students who are doing it. ASU Libraries officials often have video chat sessions with UofA and NAU makerspace personnel regarding best practices.

“We’re not in competition with them,” ASU Libraries chief technology officer Steve Tanner said. “We visit with them, we learn from them and vice versa. It’s very much a collaborative spirit amongst the maker community.”

There’s also a big push to get more faculty engaged with the spaces.

“The mkrservices give faculty the opportunity to assign invention and creativity” instead of the usual papers and speeches, digital services librarian Wes Edens said. “Students can actually be assigned to express themselves a little bit more.”

In celebration of the Mexican holiday Day of the Dead, a professor brought students to the mkrspace to create 3-D prints of sugar skulls. Another professor had students use the book scanner and vinyl cutter to scan original sketches onto vinyl.

The third-floor mkrstudio is very popular with professors as well, who, Edens said, have used it to allow their students to compete in video case competitions and to record lectures for online courses, among other things.

“As you can imagine, almost any class might want to have a video component to it,” he said.

Though there may be a learning curve for some, library officials have faith that students can help professors get more involved. Even so, they’re happy to meet with faculty to show them everything the mkrservices can add to their curriculum. Recently, they met with some life sciences professors to show them some sample lesson plans and demonstrate how they could create 3-D models of DNA and proteins that could be passed around in class.

On a recent Thursday, assistant professor Monica De La Torre brought her Latina/o media and pop culture class to the mkrspace for an assignment that required them to create a product based on the class’ theme. She hoped using the space would get students to embrace their creative sides.

Interdisciplinary studies senior Natalie Figueroa was shocked by all the space had to offer.

“I’ve got so many ideas now,” she said. One is to create a Latina/o-themed garment using the sewing machine. “I was going to pay to take sewing lessons, but now I can just come here.

“I think I’m going to be using this space for a lot of other things, too. I was just talking to my friend about expanding our work skills, and this space allows you to get experience in all those little areas you never thought about before.”

Getting students excited about learning is what it’s all about, say library officials.

“It’s an opportunity for students to succeed in new ways,” Tanner said. “They get the chance to try something that’s way outside their wheelhouse, something they’ve never even thought of trying before, and they do it, and they find that they do it well.”

The spaces bring out a level of enthusiasm in students that is encouraging to the maker mission.

“It really goes to the heart of student satisfaction, student success,” Edens said. “The happier they are with their learning, the more joy that is brought into their learning process, the more successful they’re going to be. And I think the makerspaces are key to that.”


Top photo: Junior Allan Garry (left), an aerospace engineering major, adjusts settings on a 3-D printer in Hayden Library's second-floor mrkspace. This mkrspace was founded last spring and is under the direction of project coordinator Joel Smalley (right). Photo by Anya Magnuson/ASU Now

Emma Greguska

Reporter, ASU Now

(480) 965-9657