We’re coming up on one of the best times of the year for many overseas players. The holiday break! This is a time to go home and reconnect with family and friends, recharge the battery, and return to your team for the best part of the season. When January rolls around, it’s like a fresh new beginning. Before you know it, you’ll be making the final push towards what is hopefully and long and productive run that goes deep into the playoffs.
But when the clock strikes 12 on New Year’s Eve, there’s one thing that none of us will be wishing for, and that’s LATE PAYMENTS! The truth is, it’s almost inevitable that most players will experience delayed payments during their season, or at some point during their careers. Let’s look at some of the things that can be done if and when it happens to you.
1. Go Crazy.
On one of my first teams overseas, I had a vet gave me some ‘sound’ advice. He was 37 years old and had played in a number of countries for a wide range of professional (and unprofessional) teams. Early in the season, he was giving me some pointers about life as a basketball player overseas. Some lessons were better than others, but the one that really scared scared me was when he explained how a number of teams had tried to stop paying him. I can still remember the look in his eye. He was serious as a heart attack when he looked me in the eye and said,
“The first day that any team is late with your payment, grap your contract and a suitcase, then bust into the office and curse the $#!@ out of the Team President.”
I took heed.
With only two months into the season, the team was late with my payment. I took action.
There he was, the team President sitting cozy behind the desk. Months earlier, the little guy was my hero. He had put his John Hancock on one of my first pro contacts, held up my jersey, and shook my hand for pictures with the local press. But on this day, he was my worst enemy. I was out for blood, and it was time to kick ass first and take questions later.
As I delivered my Tony Montana-like rant and rage, he peered up and sat still like he was glued to his seat. He tried to talk, but I cut him off everytime. His eyes got bigger and bigger as if they were going to pop out his head and shatter his glasses. He was already a 3-packs-a-day-cigarette-smoker, and he probably smoked a half-a-pack, from the time I began until the time I grabbed my bag, crumbled the contract, and slammed the office door.
Other than my four-letter English slang, and the few native curses that I did my best to deliver, he probably understood like five words that came out my mouth. But one thing’s for sure, he understood exactly what I was trying to say.
But I didn’t stop there….
The other way my mentor told me to get the team’s attention was to act crazier and crazier everyday in practice until I got my money. Once again, I took heed. (And yes, I did keep practicing..well..kinda)
Ball going out of bounds? Why save it, when you can kick it into the stands?
Defense? Why play that, when you can just clobber the guy with an MMA (it was WWF back then) body chop?
Fast break? How about a light jog from foul line to foul line? This was especially fun during team sprints.
“What happened was this…after going off on the President and 3 days of acting totally ridiculous in practice, (enjoying every minute of it) I was given every penny owed to me.”
It probably helped that I was averaging 27 points per game, and our team was on our first real winning streak of the season. But the biggest factor was this…the city government had finally came through with the 2nd half of money they had agreed to pay to the team.
Would I advise #1 to any young player today?
Times are very different. There a long list of very good players ready and willing to step into your spot. Today, teams put clauses in contracts to protect them in the event that you ‘act out’, and you could be sent packing very quickly with the internationally reporters trashing your reputation. You will never see any of your money. You also want to be careful because in some countries, the Team Presi may also be a ‘Boss.’ Threatening him will get you sent home alright.. in a body bag!
2. Ask Tons of Questions.
Research can be done by you and your agent well before you even sign the contract. That way, you will have answers to some of the following questions before the day that your team stops cutting the checks.
What is the team’s payment history? Do they have a reputation for over-promising large contracts and under-delivering when it comes time to cough up the dough? Do they have a history of falling 2-3 weeks or even months behind on payments? Look up the team’s roster from the year before to see if you know any of the players. If so, reach out and ask if they got all their money on time, or if not, what was the normal delay. Current team members can also help out in this department. Local players may have been with the team for multiple years and will most likely shed some light on the situation. Do they still owe players money? Some of the most reputable leagues won’t even let a team begin a new season if they are in debt to players from the season before. Who funds the teams? Do they get their money from corporate or local sponsors or does the bulk of their salaries get paid by the local government? If money comes from corporations or politicians, take a look at the news surrounding them, are any in danger of going belly up?
The answers to alot of these questions can help you know what to expect from the team and can provide direction if and when the team starts b.s.-in’ with your cash.
3. Get Help.
The first person to call is your agent. The best ones will be on the phone and getting back to you about what is causing the delay and when you should expect to be getting your money. If you have an American agent that is working with a partner in the country that you are playing, then allow 2-3 days for them to speak. The partner will need to speak to the team and get back to your agent with answers.
If a week goes by, and you haven’t gotten any real feedback, then it may be time to take things into your own hands. The first place to start is to ask your teammates what they’ve heard. If you’re not getting your money, then it’s very likely that neither are your teammates. Some of them may have heard something back from their agents, ask them first, but don’t stop there. Ask the team captain. A good team captain is like the pulse of the team. Don’t be afraid to ask the coach. Sometimes they don’t have any idea that players are not being paid. After you’ve gotten feedback from all of these sources, you are well equip to have a real conversation with the team executives. Set up a meeting with the General Manager, President, or the person that normally gives you your money. If you do get the meeting, be well prepared and don’t leave without getting a date that you should expect to receive your hard-earned cash.
Another source that you should be ready to tap into is the league federation. A few leagues have a group that represents players the rights of the players. If teams become delinquent or refuse to pay, then the group is set up to act on your behalf to ensure that you get all the money that is guaranteed in by your contract. It’s best to research if the country you play in has this kind of federation prior to signing your deal, but if you aren’t getting anywhere with your quest for answers, then be ready to take it to the federation. This list is a good starting point for sports federations world-wide, but ask around in the country you’re playing in. Many Federations, like the Spanish Aval, are ready and willing to jump right in and help.
You should also be prepared to learn about the process and proactively submit your paperwork on your own. It really sucks, but there are many reasons that your agent may not do this for you. If they are an American agent, one reason is, they just don’t know how to do it. If they are European, then they may not want to. Contact us at email@example.com for more information about working with the league federation.
4. Strongly Consider Your Options.
Siting #3 above, most federations won’t protect you for more than 3 payments. In other words, if the team owes you more than 3 months of pay, then you may be out of luck. The only way you will get your money is in the court of law, which can be very expensive, can take a long time, and is not that easy to do.
But before you try #1 (Acting Crazy), think about your options. Many players talk about what they would do if they were ever faced with the dilemma of not being paid their money, but until you’re actually faced with the situation, it’s hard to predict what you would really do.
Many players have made the terrible mistake of catching jumping on a plane and leaving the team. I strongly advise against this.
There are two things to keep in mind before you hop on the next thing smoking:
1. The minute you leave the country, you can pretty much kiss your money goodbye. 2. Ending your season prematurely, for whatever reason, can have a very negative impact on the future of your basketball career, especially if you have not logged multiple seasons as a pro.
Before you walk out on your team, please think about some of the questions you will have to answer by the next team that wants to sign you. Unfortunately, your Eurobasket.com , RealGM, or iBall Profiles will not explain that you had to leave because your team stopped paying you. Your stats will only show that when the most important time of the season came around, which is the playoffs, you were nowhere to be found. And missing those stats and precious playoff experience will leave alot to be imagined. Why didn’t he finish the season? Was he injured? Was he cut? Did he abandon the team? Is he a head case? Does he have what it takes to step up in the playoffs? and etc. etc.
You also have to keep in mind that there are ways to go about getting your money and most of them aren’t available until after the season is actually over. You also don’t want to hit the panic button without giving the team a chance to make things right. Sometimes teams are really trying to get you your money. They are begging sponsors to pay up, and writing pleas to the local government, but they are just having a hard time. In most of those cases, you will eventually be paid.
Also take consideration of your personal situation. You may be having the best seasons of anyone in the league, but you may also be a rookie or 1st or 2nd year player. If that is the case, its very likely that the money you are making (or waiting on) is not enough to make you rich. Your primary object should not be to collect the cash that is owed to you, but to finish the season on top, claiming league MVP or making a long run into the league playoffs or win a championship. Whether you get the rest of the your money or not, you will have boosted your value to the point where the money you may or may not have gotten, will come back 2 or 3 fold the very next season.
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