Sports agents represent professional athletes and are paid when their clients are paid. Among their day-to-day duties for their clients are negotiating contracts, procuring other sources of revenue from endorsement deals and appearances, and assisting with financial planning. Salary ranges for sports agents vary based on their commission structure (which includes the percentage they earn), profile of the athletes they represent, and number of clients. Commission rates are set by the sports leagues with actual percentage amounts determined by the players and agents.
The Major Sports
In the National Football League, agents are paid 3 percent from player salaries. In the National Basketball Association, agents may earn anywhere from 3 to 15 percent with players and agents settling on the exact number. However, the typical number is 4 percent. Major League Baseball agents do not have a limit on how much they may charge in commissions. Similarly, there is no cap for National Hockey League agents. These numbers reflect commissions on player salaries as of 2011.
In each sport, agents may represent several clients who may range from athletes with large multimillion-dollar contracts to those with small contracts and no money guaranteed. Agents' commissions may be based on percentages, flat-fee arrangements, hourly rates (typically for agents who are also attorneys), or a combination of these methods. Sports agents typically receive between 3 and 5 percent of their players' salaries and may negotiate flat-fee arrangements for endorsement deals in which they are paid directly from the companies.
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A Look at the Numbers
An average commission in the NBA, where the average player earns $4 million annually, would earn an agent $126,000 per player. In Major League Baseball, the average player salary is nearly $3 million annually and the average agent's salary is $84,000 per player. Average agent salaries per player in the NFL and NHL are $51,000 and $54,000, respectively, based on average player salaries of nearly $2 million in each sport.
The Business of Agents
Top sports agents such as Drew Rosenhaus, Leigh Steinberg, David Dunn and Scott Boras earn millions of dollars annually and represent some of the highest-paid athletes in the business. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average yearly salary for sports and other agents is approximately $100,000 as of 2009. In spite of status or experience, sports agents earn a commission between 3 and 5 percent. The difference between the highest and average earners is dependent upon the profiles of the athletes they represent and the contracts they are able to negotiate. Also, it is customary for agents to represent a combination of players earning mega-salaries and players earning average salaries.