Superagent Leigh Steinberg Shows Clients The Money

HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs Clark Hunt speaks onstage with sports agent/event host Leigh Steinberg during the 30th Annual Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg)
HOUSTON, TX - FEBRUARY 04: (L-R) Chairman and CEO of the NFL's Kansas City Chiefs Clark Hunt speaks onstage with sports agent/event host Leigh Steinberg during the 30th Annual Leigh Steinberg Super Bowl Party on February 4, 2017 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images for Leigh Steinberg) /

Super agent Leigh Steinberg, who was the inspiration behind the character played by actor Tom Cruise in the box office hit Jerry Maguire, continues to “show his clients the money”.

The film inspired many popular phrases that continue to be a part of the American lexicon, particularly with respect to the verbiage that can be heard in and around the sports world.

Show me the money” and “Help me help you” still go hand in hand with the never ending pursuit of dollars, cents, and negotiations in the still high stakes world of player-agent representation.

WDD was fortunate to be able to catch up to super-agent Leigh Steinberg from his office in Newport Beach, California. Leigh dished about player safety, the slight ratings drop in the NFL, politics and the Colin Kaepernick / U.S. flag issue, Bountygate (for a bit),  and his favorite food in New Orleans.

Robert Gagnier – Hello Mr. Steinberg, how are you doing?

Leigh Steinberg – I am doing great.

RG – First and foremost the Who Dat Dish wants to thank you for giving us the time to talk with you today. Leigh; so much has been written and said lately about player safety, and every year now one seems to read about an ex-NFL player either reaching out to the media about his deteriorating conditions, or in the most gravest of circumstances, have taken their own lives because they knew they were no longer capable of being their former selves. Are you happy with the progress that has been made as of late with respect to player safety in the NFL in 2017?

LS – I am happy that the NFL now has a concussion protocol in place. However; when you watch it at work, for example in the very first game of the year where Cam Newton was playing for Carolina, he was hit in the head multiple times and was not taken off the filed for some of them. In fact; on some of those plays, they weren’t even calling any hits at all, so its a good concept but we need to go so much further.

People who don’t play football don’t realize that a “traffic accident” occurs on every play! And so the aches and pains that players have not only plague them for a season or off-season, they often stay with them throughout life. But the most critical part of this is what happens to the brain.

So every time an offensive lineman hits a defensive lineman at the inception of a down in football, it produces a low-level sub-concussive event. So you have a slight amount of brain change there. So, an offensive lineman could walk out of football with 10,000 sub-concussive hits, none of which have been diagnosed, none of which he is aware of but the aggregate almost certainly leads to Alzheimer’s, premature senility, chronic traumatic encephalopathy, and depression. And the brain controls everything from character to what it means to be a human being. So, the problem is we need to take a strong hard look and see what age are we starting young people playing tackle football.

We also need to take a look at a new type of helmet being developed with technology that uses quall and compression to disperses the energy so that at least fifty percent of the impact is dissipated. The current helmet just protects against skull fracture.

We need to be taking a look at enforcing the rules very strongly too. Imagine if 50 percent of the mothers in this country understood the reality of football and brain damage. They then tell their teen boys that you can play any sport, but not tackle football, it wouldn’t ruin football, as they would still be players who chose to play. However, the sport would then be seen as a gladiator sport, where only people similar to those in boxing and UFC who are desperate to escape the jaws of poverty would resort to. And now you have a slippery slope that boxing fell into and became de-stabilized. We have lots of work to do.

RG – How does the young, up and coming Steinberg’s of the world who will be representing players such as yourself balance their own interests as well as the financial interests of their players against the always present issue of player safety?

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LS – I think that looking at the fiduciary responsibility that someone has for a young athlete—you cant simply define that as putting more dollars into their bank book. Yo have to also be concerned with a second career, making them a role model, and most importantly with the state of their brain and overall long-term health. So, I had a crisis of conscious myself—I don’t want to make a living sending someone down the path to dementia. So the only question is, do you get into the system and fight for reform, or do you just walk away? And that is why I feel as though there are so many ways that I can help athletes, from getting them to become role models, to retracing their roots back to their high school and collegiate level, and setting up programs that make a difference and stimulate their focus on second career.  My choice was to stay in the field, but to also become an urgent spokesman for the fact that every single game involves this risk.

RG – Do most athletes appreciate this information in terms of the risks they are taking playing this game?

LS – Many athletes are in a state of denial when it comes to their physical health because they have been playing since they were very young. They have played in Pop Warner, Little League, etc. They are taught that real men ignore pain, and even stay in the game. When you try to talk to the athletes themselves, the thought that there is going to be life at 50 or 60 is so far away to them. It’s a very difficult balance, but you have to follow your conscious. You have to be sure to communicate with parents, wives, and the people around them to help make sure that they understand the consequences of playing football and how it could affect their ability to live a normal life.

RG – Can you comment on the ratings of the NFL taking a slight dip during the 2016 season?

LS – First of all you need to understand that football continues to dominate American television and produces consistent ratings that anyone else would die for. There remain many weeks on schedule where three of the top five or six of the top ten productions that are rated the highest are still NFL football. They are so far ahead of most, that there isn’t any real problem as of yet. But if you listed to the polling, some of the reasons many fans stayed away from the games was due to the Colin Kaepernick flag situation.

Now, players have every right to express themselves politically, but they can do it in so many ways. That’s part of them being involved in society. They can speak at a rally, they can donate money to various causes, they can use their brand, etc. Where it becomes problematic is when it’s done in the stadium. Now people may argue, “well, that’s where the most focus it”, and they are right. Except that sports reaches a universal audience from people with political views, genders, races, etc. These people see going to the football game largely as a respite.

RG – What are your thoughts on Roger Goodell suspending Sean Payton for the entire season in the so-called Bounty Gate scandal?

LS – It just depends on what was actually proven. If a head coach was shown to be responsible for specifically trying to injure players, that is very unacceptable. But the point is that  we have this area of selective and no consistency in terms of penalties—this has been heavily debated. Another problem is that the commissioner has unchallengeable authority in these disciplinary areas. Unchecked power like that is dangerous because it can result in both over and under reaction. But a year suspension? If that wasn’t Sean Payton that could have been seen as a death penalty! I think that suspension was a bit harsh!

RG – Leigh most current pictures out there now of you have you looking fairly thin and in good overall health. But even you have to give in from time to time when you come down to New Orleans and go after some good food. What are your favorite dishes when you come to New Orleans?

LS – Both Crawfish and Shrimp etoufee. The thing with that Cajun/Creole flavoring is that it can ruin all other foods that come after that because they will taste bland. I mean, if they had the Super Bowl in New Orleans ever year, it would be just fine with me. For a city that knows how to host a party, you have those amazing restaurants and a great atmosphere-you just can beat it! The last time we were down there we held my annual Super Bowl party at Jazz Land. But I am always super excited when I see that a Super Bowl in New Orleans is comin up!