Since July 27th, people around the world have been glued to their television screens watching the London Olympics. J.Paye has had the pleasure of chatting with past Olympian, Edward W. Neufville, III, who ran track for Liberia in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics. Neufville describes himself as a passionate, persistent, and competent immigration and international law attorney and entrepreneur.
Let’s rewind 16 years and 4 Olympic competitions to the 1996 Olympics in Atlanta. Then, 19-year-old Neufville was a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC) where he ran track. On his collegiate track team were several American and international students who also competed in the Olympics. In the months leading up to the 1996 Olympic Games, the Liberian Olympic track team assembled in Jefferson, Georgia and began training as a team. Each day, they would train from nine in the morning to noon then again during the evening hours perfecting their technique, weight training and sprinting. According to Neufville, “I felt very blessed, honored and fortunate to have competed at the Olympic Games for my country, especially at such a young age. It was a feeling of accomplishment and also a feeling of giving back to Liberia. Liberia was in the midst of a civil crisis in 1996. The opportunity to represent Liberia and provide a positive picture of Liberia was very satisfying. It was out of this world!”
In April of 1996, three months prior to the start of the Olympic Games, a civil conflict reignited in Liberia. The team lost complete contact with their Olympic committee and officials. Together, as a unit, they persevered by serving as their own negotiators. Although they did not make the Olympic finals, the team placed 24th out of 38 teams.
Other than making the Liberian Olympic team, Neufville accomplished much more during his athletic career. From 1991-1995, Neufville won four individual state championships in South Carolina and set the South Carolina high state record in the 400 meters hurdles. His most defining moments as an athlete were when the Liberian national team set records in the 4×100 sprint relays in 1996 Olympics and the 1997 World Championships in Athens, Greece. These were memorable because of the ties and camaraderie that existed between him and his teammates. Another defining moment was running the relay in 1997. Neufville stated that he had a hairline stress fracture in his lower back days leading up to the race and could not walk. However, he persevered because he did not want to disappoint his teammates. The team set a national record that helped to restore the image of Liberia. Another moment he speaks of fondly, was when he placed 3rd in the 55 meters sprint at the Atlantic Coast Conference Indoor Championships because he was not expected to make the finals.
In October of 2008, Neufville was inducted into his high school’s Athletic Hall of Fame in Sumter, South Carolina and the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill’s Track and Field & Cross-Country Hall of Fame in January of 2007. Within every profession come highs and lows, Neufville most disappointing moment or moments is how frequently he got injured. As he says, “I ran most of my collegiate years either injured or recovering from an injury.”
Now, let’s fast-forward to today. Neufville expresses that the most memorable moment of the 2012 Olympic games is the opening ceremony or the “Parade of Nations”. He warmheartedly recalls 16 years ago, as a 19 year old, walking into the Atlanta Olympic Stadium as a member of the Liberian Olympic Team. “The feeling you get when your nation is introduced is one of a kind.” Other favorite moments of the 2012 Olympic games thus far is the flawless performance of Gabby Douglas in the all round gymnastics competition and the Men’s’ 10,000 meters race with Great Britain’s Mo Farah and training mate, American Galen Rupp, which was team work at its best.
J.Paye in Brief on Endorsement Contracts for Athletes
Negotiating favorable terms into an endorsement or sponsorship contract is about “The Art of the Deal” The more name recognition or fan base an athlete has gives the greater negotiating power.
Many of the Olympic athletes who will be offered endorsement deals are young adults or in their teens. As such, the morals clause is going to be a big negotiating point for these athletes. A morals clause allows the company to terminate the athlete for an act that significantly devalues the endorsement or embarrasses the company. Here, the athlete will want to make sure the contract stipulates what behavior/conduct is prohibited by the endorser. The last thing an athlete would want is to obtain a multi year endorsement deal that is cancelled because he or she engaged in behavior not specifically defined in the contract. All I can say to this is think Michael Phelps and the infamous bong photos. An athlete will want to make sure the morals clause allows them to terminate the contract when the company engages in immoral behavior. An athlete does not want their brand to be associated with a company that has engaged in consumer fraud or some other unethical activity.
The athlete wants to make sure the contract specifically defines the compensation terms. With good legal representation the athlete can negotiate creative compensation structures. For example, maybe the athlete forgoes a large upfront payment and instead opts for stock or ownership rights in the company. Think Rapper 50 Cent and the Vitamin Water deal. This type of compensation structure works well with start-up companies vs. mature establish companies. Another important provision of endorsement contracts it the exclusivity clause. An athlete does not want this clause to be so narrow preventing them from obtaining other endorsements.
Lastly, Athletes want to remember that they are the brand and should take steps to protect their intellectual property. Athletes may want to trademark unique nicknames they are recognized by in their respective sports.