Sports agents serve a valuable role in terms of securing and negotiating contracts for the professional athlete. Lawyers who represent athletes have generally been trained in the fundamentals of contracts and should be familiar with the current market value of their client relative to other athletes within the same sport. However, it should be noted that hiring a lawyer is not required (nor is an agent for that matter) to secure deals for the athlete. Some athletes do not wish to hire an agent for a variety of reasons, including having to pay commissions or other fees associated with the representation. Since the athlete has unique talents, abilities, and skills, their contracts are categorized as personal services contracts.
Technically, a personal service contract may not be assigned to someone else. An assignment is a transfer of rights that a party has under a contract to another person. Why can’t a personal service contract be assigned? The talents of an athlete are unique. For example, Peyton Manning could not assign his contract to another player. His talents are so unique. The team owner would not honor such an assignment.
No one can be legally forced to work for someone for whom they do not want to work. The Thirteenth Amendment to the U. S. Constitution provides: Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States. This provision of the Constitution has been interpreted as including a prohibition against requiring someone to work for an employer for whom they do not wish to work.
How then do team owners get away with trading players from one team to another, since this in effect is assigning a personal service contract? Any contract may be assigned with permission of the parties. The right to assign is part of a player’s contract. However, some players have enough bargaining power to put in a do not trade clause. This keeps a team from assigning the player to a team for whom he does not want to play.
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