Johnny Manziel cleared waivers Saturday. No team wanted to take a seven-digit financial hit and pick up the most public party boy in the NFL.
Coincidentally, when news broke that every team had passed on Manziel, the former Cleveland Brown and Texas A&M Heisman winner, Erik Burkhardt, his former agent, was speaking at an SXSports event on whether great athletes also need to be good citizens.
Evan Rosenblum, the executive sports producer of TMZ.com, also was on the panel along with Los Angeles Rams chief operating officer Kevin Demoff.
TMZ, the celebrity news site, has posted stories on Manziel the past five days, none of which reflected well on Manziel’s character, including a video of the quarterback leaving a Los Angeles night club late Friday night. The Browns had cut Manziel earlier Friday.
Burkhardt said the issue of whether an athlete’s behavior should be of concern was “overly vague and ambiguous topic. How do you define good people?”
But the question is relevant. How much do fans care about the off-field antics of their favorite athletes?
There is an audience for such stories. Websites like TMZ financially thrive on bad behavior.
Fans also care what their athletes do, whether it’s a political endorsement or becoming more active in a social movement.
Demoff brought up how five Rams took a stance in the racial protests centered on Ferguson, Mo., in 2014. Before a game, the five ran out of the stadium tunnel with their hands raised, signifying “Hands up, don’t shoot.”
Demoff said there was a huge swell of negative reaction against the players, saying the fallout represented the worst week in his professional career.
Agents must balance their clients’ best interests and spin the cause of negative headlines to their teams and companies that endorse them.
Burkhardt severed business ties with Manziel last month after news broke that the Dallas Police Department was investigating Manziel for alleged domestic violence against his ex-girlfriend.
Burkhardt said he cut ties with Manziel because he believed he was financially enabling his behavior.
Yet he still calls him a friend and an “incredible” person.
“I care about him tremendously,” Burkhardt said. “I know Johnny will be back, and his redemption story will be a great one.”
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