I've wanted to weigh in on the LeVeon Bell situation for weeks. Today I read an article written on October 24th by Jesse Washington for The Undefeated. I couldn't remain silent any longer. The article discussed the approach taken by Bell's agent, Adisa Bakari.
In modern professional sports and entertainment, the concept of building a brand is not new. Your brand as a player defines who you are as an individual both on and off the field of play. In the article, Bakari is quoted as saying:
One of the things we try to instill in our clients from the very beginning is understanding their value on and off the field.
If that is the case, then I would argue that he has, to a great extent failed in his efforts with regards to Bell. I read in the same article that Bakari gives a copy of the book Forty Million Dollar Slaves: The Rise, Fall, and Redemption of the Black Athlete by William C. Rhoden to all his clients. He seems a bit like he is on a mission to “educate” his clients about their value and has also pointed out that similar white players with white agents wouldn't have been questioned about their hold out.
That could be true but I seriously doubt it. You almost get the feeling that Bakari is in some sense using Bell to advance his personal philosophies about race, equality and player compensation. I agree that Bakari and Bell have worked hard to establish his value on the field.
Where they have failed miserably is in establishing Bell's value off the field.
Prior to this season, and in spite of his suspensions and sitting out last year, Bell could have been successful in any number of business ventures or analyst careers simply because of his name recognition and success on the field. He was, and to some Steeler's fans, still is the best running back in the league.
At this juncture, Bell has cost himself millions in salary and bonuses. In my opinion, he has also cost himself millions in endorsement deals and he has permanently damaged his brand. His unique running style and family background set him apart from other players. I remember hearing that his mom was a lifelong fan and how he wanted to retire as a Steeler. Now his brand doesn't stand for much of anything except negativity and immaturity.
In the above-mentioned article, Bakari states:
No matter what, you have to understand your value at all times. And you have to, quite frankly, fight to secure that value.
My question to Mr. Bakari is, how is that strategy working for you and Bell so far?
Note: K.J. Rhoden is of no relation to the author William C. Rhoden named above.