What do Jon Oosterhuis, Obi Khan, and Joe Loebendahn all have in common? If you were to guess that they are all free agents who will be unrestricted as of Feb. 15 you would only be half correct. If you also guessed that they are now represented by an agent who is currently sitting in jail, you get full credit.
It was reported late last week that CFL agent Mark Maren was arrested and is currently in jail somewhere in New York state awaiting extradition to Florida to face a felony charge. This is not a good thing for any of the over 40 CFL players he represents, but even worse for those who are slated to become unrestricted free agents and for those he was currently negotiating for. Oosterhuis told me he started getting suspicious about the whereabouts of his agent when Maren started including cartons of cigarettes, posters of pinup girls, and soap on a rope as part of Jon's new deal with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
In all seriousness though, this arrest is leaving a lot of high profile CFL players high and dry and without representation. If one were ever thinking of getting into the athlete representation business, now would be the time to do it. Not only does Maren represent the three aforementioned Bombers, but also Jovon Johnson, Clint Kent, Brendan Labatte, Matt Morencie, Kelly Butler, Deji Oduwole, Fernand Kashama, Justin Palardy, Brandon Stewart, and Alex Suber. That's more than enough players to field an offence or defence from our football team alone. According to his Facebook site, "M Sports Management LTD," which is still up and running, this currently incarcerated agent also represents some big names from some other teams, like Otis Floyd, Kevin Glenn, and Barrin Simpson. In the ever competitive business of athlete representation, if I were an agent I would be calling every single one of these players and offering up my services, as this is the potential coup of a lifetime.
While we all make mistakes in life, and I'm a big believer in second chances for most anybody -- save for Michael Vick now that I have read the book The Lost Dogs -- I'm not sure how an agent ever recovers from not only being arrested, but being held on a charge of, "scheming to defraud." If there were a worse charge that a player agent, who negotiates contracts on behalf of athletes who trust that he will keep their best interests in mind, could face, I am not aware of it. A minor assault of a General Manager, a kidnapping charge of a Director of Player Personnel, are all preferable charges in my mind than the career suicide that a fraud charge is for an agent.
It was also reported that Mark Maren told the border officials that he had a criminal record in Canada. Not only would my advice for all these players be to seek representation and counsel from another agent ASAP, but to start looking into all previous invoices you may have paid out to this Mr. Maren for accuracy and legitimacy. While all agents that operate in the CFL are required to be registered with the CFLPA and sign a statutory declaration where they have to swear to truthfully answer questions -- which cover previous criminal convictions -- they do not perform background checks, which is probably how he slipped through the cracks. The CFLPA is currently conducting an investigation and contacting all of his CFL clients.
If Maren had a minimum of 40 players in the CFL and receives a five per cent commission off of all the money these players make over and above the CFL minimum wage, he was probably garnering an income well into the six-figure range, which he has probably just forfeited now and forever. In a business where your reputation is everything, and trust and word of mouth referrals are how you market yourself, this border crossing attempt by this agent last week, may have completely destroyed his business and his career working with professional athletes.
Doug Brown, always a hard-hitting defensive lineman and frequently a hard-hitting columnist, appears Tuesdays in the Free Press.