Discrimination in plain sight: College athletes on F-1 visas are missing out | Opinion

College athletes now have a well-deserved opportunity to earn money from their name, image and likeness.

Except for about 20,000 of them.

There are about 187,000 college athletes, of whom about 20,000 student-athletes are attending U.S. colleges on F-1 visas. Following the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Congress passed The Patriot Act, which forbids students from outside the United States from earning money while attending school, unless they are employed by their school and on campus.

You’re not going to get any arguments from me about strengthening national security. I was in the South Tower on 9/11, having coffee with a friend before the first plane hit the North Tower. By the time both planes hit, I was just three blocks away at the New York Stock Exchange.

It turned out that one of the hijackers, who lived in Paterson, New Jersey, was earning money while here on an F-1 Visa. He evidently didn’t attend classes; he just worked and earned money to help fund the attack.

Fast forward to 2021, and the NCAA decides it’s time to allow athletes to capitalize on their name, image and likeness. Except for those 20,000 students who aren’t allowed to earn a dime here in the U.S.

”While I understand the intent of the law surrounding F-1 visas, the application of that law, as written, to F-1 visa foreign born athletes creates a discriminatory environment where these athletes are precluded from receiving the same benefits under NIL as non F-1 visa athletes,” says Jose Linares, the former chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of New Jersey. “This unintended result discriminates against these athletes (who are often the most financially challenged and thus most needy of the financial benefits of NIL) in a way that was never intended, foreseen or justified. This unintended consequence needs to be remedied.”

Loopholes? A non-U.S. athlete can go “offshore” to take photos, post on social media, sign autographs and appear in television, print and social media advertising and keep his or her earnings. The result is that more and more colleges are scheduling preseason trips to Europe, the Caribbean Islands, and other locales to give their non-U.S. athletes the opportunity to earn NIL money.

“There is no reason for this,” says attorney Peter Till. “The athletes should at the least be allowed to have someone put the money in a trust so that when their Visa status changes, or they return to their home countries, they can benefit from the earnings. There has been considerable and scholarly discussion on this topic.”

The NCAA has more to consider regarding rules around NIL. Are schools offering athletes “confirmed” NIL compensation if they attend that school? Are college boosters (now legally) sending money directly to athletes, in exchange for an appearance at the booster’s company or for a social media post about the booster’s business? It’s a work in progress … and the NCAA will need to develop hard and fast rules, so schools better understand what is and isn’t permissible.

But the NCAA might start with leveling the playing field for all its athletes. Start with the low hanging fruit? It shouldn’t take much for an NCAA delegation to visit Capitol Hill and show why this law needs to be updated.

“This application of this law is outdated and misdirected,” says attorney Charles M. Lizza of the law firm Saul Ewing LLP. “We understand and abide by laws, but as times and practices change, laws need to be consistent with those changes. Students should all have equal rights.”

While not being able to earn money for themselves, some non-U.S. students have used NIL to help others thanks to the NCAA’s rule changes.

Take Clifford Omoruyi for example. The starting center for the Rutgers basketball team, who hails from Nigeria and is attending the school while on an F-1 Visa, “Big Cliff” has helped several companies with appearances and social media posts, but never asked for a penny. Instead, his marketing agent asked the companies to give a donation to the “Books & Basketball” program at the Salvation Army’s West Side facility in Newark. Clifford volunteered at the program during his off-seasons, while he lived with the family of the program’s founder, Muhammad Oliver.

“He’s been an amazing role model for so many young children in Newark,” says Oliver. “And the contributions companies have made in his honor, have helped us provide equipment for these children that they otherwise wouldn’t have.”

The NCAA has a long way to go to take the wrinkles out of NIL. But it — and Congress — can start by making it a level playing field for every athlete, regardless of his or her country of origin. The discrimination needs to end.


A big thanks to those who have helped the FDNY Foundation

Those of you who know me and our firms know that one of our primary responsibilities is supporting the FDNY and FDNY Foundation.  For 19 years after watching first-hand the dedication of New York’s Bravest after 9/11, and seeing their pain and sacrifice, I believe it is simply the right thing to do.


This year was obviously difficult.  The strain of COVID-19 put our EMS personnel and firefighters in uncharted territory.  But, as they always do, these men and women rose to the occasion.


Our annual dinner – our major fundraising event – was cancelled in May.  I thought we had developed a great alternative – an outdoor event in late September for a smaller group of people at “The Rock,” our training academy on Randall’s Island…but COVID concerns lingered and those plans were also scuttled.


So – like every other organization – we have gone “virtual,” although our “virtual” won’t be an event, but a 30-minute video featuring a “who’s who” of New York media (and some athletes and celebrities) offering their thanks to the men and women of the FDNY.  I owe all of them a great deal of thanks for doing this.


So – as you have time – spend 30 minutes seeing the amazing work done by these men and women for all New Yorkers, and the heartfelt thanks from many people you will know.


And thank you:  John Cena…Denis Leary…Kevin James…Bill Ritter…David Novarro…Sandra Bookman…Amy Freeze…Bruce Beck…Nate Solder…Jim Leyritz…John Flaherty…Maria Bartiromo…Tamsen Fadal…Andrew Ross Sorkin…Tina Cervasio…Audrey Puente…Michael Kay…Kristine Johnson…Lonnie Quinn…Jim Spanarkel…Paul O’Neill…Chris Shearn…Nancy Newman…Ryan Rucco…Joe Tolleson…Jack Curry…Ian Eagle…and Nicole Petalides.  I owe all of you.  Thank you.

Watch the full video here.


COVID-19 vs. 9/11

I sent an email to a client (and friend) this morning, congratulating him on his company’s decision to provide insurance coverage to furloughed workers during the crisis we face today.  I sent that email right after I had an email exchange with a basketball colleague in Italy. He has been in lockdown for several weeks in a much more difficult environment.

Both asked me about our current situation, compared with being at the NYSE on 9/11.

I understand the comparison, and I understand the market reaction.

But the events are so different.  The events of 9/11 were quickly realized to be the work of a very visible enemy – one we had the opportunity well before 9/11 to take down and didn’t, both because of our President’s unwillingness, and our inattention to details that could have uncovered the terrorists’ plot.  Our surveillance and caution around security issues has changed dramatically post 9/11.

This current killer is invisible.  But, like 9/11, it will forever change some of our habits and aspects of social interaction…and – my guess – where some of our biopharma companies invest in the future.  I can envision investors (and governments…and insurers) funding research and discovery that can identify where the “next” COVID-19 might come from, and vaccines that can prevent transmission.

Col. Jack Jacobs is a very dear friend.  Sitting here in quiet Tewksbury is a blessing compared to what he went through in Vietnam.  And none of us are trying to charge up the cliffs on the beaches in Normandy.

Yes, this is difficult…but there are many worse things we’ve been confronted with.

I’d rather be faced with having the virus than standing in a window on the 98th floor of the World Trade Center, knowing my choice was to burn or jump.

And financially, we will survive.  One of the first (and one of the smartest) guys I ever worked for on Wall Street was Paul Tudor Jones.  He was on an extended interview on CNBC this morning.  It was excellent.  He captured it perfectly.  Here’s a link: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/03/26/tudor-jones-says-this-is-the-greatest-fiscal-monetary-bazooka-ever.html

To everyone out there, be safe!

(and – for the record – to me at least, 9/11 was much worse.)

Whatever happened to apologies?

Whatever happened to apologies?

I was never a real fan of Alex Rodriguez, even though he did play for Yankees.  But he nailed it in his comments this week about the Astros.

There seems to be no remorse.

And rather than taking a lesson from other sports in how they handled violations, Commissioner Rob Manfred has not ruled with a heavy hand.

It’s pure and simple:  The Houston Astros as a team…and many of their players as individuals…broke the sport’s rules.

Major League Baseball players have spoken and emasculated the Astros.  Former players (with the exception of David Ortiz, he who – oh yes – has never admitted taking steroids) have blasted the sport, with the usually quiet Derek Jeter calling it a “black eye” for baseball.  In spring training games, Astros’ hitters are being thrown at (surprise, surprise).  I especially liked the fans who showed at an Astros’ spring training game banging metal garbage can covers.

So what has happened in other sports when the sport czars learned that a supposed champion had cheated?

They are defrocked.

Remember Lance Armstrong?  I wouldn’t renew his contract at Bristol-Myers Squibb.  Thank goodness.  Shortly thereafter the whole story came out and – what do you know – he was stripped of his titles.

Manchester City broke the rules.  Banned.

College sports?  There’s a long list of vacated titles.

But not Major League Baseball.

“The agony on the players’ faces is enough,” said Mr. Manfred.

“It really didn’t change the outcome,” said the Astros’ owner.

Yeah, right.

Do the right thing, baseball.  Vacate the title.

Make those rings meaningless.  Take down the World Champions flag at Minute Maid Park.  Don’t let these garbage can clanging, buzzer wearing swindlers profit from a title they should have never had.


New GM? Dave Weighs In

Time will tell.

OK – you’ve heard that one before.

But it’s especially fitting when taking a look at Brodie Van Wagenen being named the New York Mets’ new General Manager.

So we decided to talk with our baseball guy, Dave Pepe, about his thoughts.

Dave is no slouch to baseball. His dad was the lead baseball writer for the Daily News. Dave grew up in ballparks.

His partner is Billy Martin…JR. Yes, son of the former Yankee…and Yankee manager.

Van Wagenen made his name in baseball as an MLB agent and, prior to accepting the role as GM with the Mets, was a co-head of Creative Artist Agency’s Baseball Division. The 44-year old built his career on relationships.

While the MLB has a significant population of young GMs that are analytics driven, the Mets decided to hire someone who the organization has established a strong relationship with over the years: Van Wagenen. Maybe the pendulum is swinging back??

There’s no question that Van Wagenen formed a robust rapport with the Mets, as six of the players on the team’s 2018 25-man roster were represented by him.

Two of the six are 2014 NL Rookie of the Year and two-time All-Star pitcher Jacob DeGrom and 2016 All-Star pitcher Noah Syndergaard. Much of the controversy surrounding Van Wagenen being named GM has to do with these two guys.

As DeGrom enters his third year of arbitration and Syndergaard goes into his second, Van Wagenen and the Mets will be scrutinized about the appearance of impropriety.

They’ll have to build a “Chinese Wall” around Brodie, just as banks and law firms have done for years to guard against conflicts.

This will undoubtedly be tricky territory for all parties involved, as the role of GM encompasses overseeing these hearings. But we’re told the organization is steadfast that it will work.

Whether or not Van Wagenen stays away from the cases dealing with two of the Mets’ best players and his former clients is going to be something to keep an eye on.

Another element to keep in mind is that Van Wagenen has always been known as an agent that gets really good deals for his clients and less-so for the clubs. It will be interesting to see how – forgive us for another cliché, but – the tables will turn.

Kudos to the Mets for going outside of the box. And per Dave Pepe, Brodie’s experience in building relationships will be paramount to his success.

And oh yes…we and Dave have some players we think you might be interested in.

First Impressions Go a Long Way

A guy walked into a room…

No, not a joke.

It’s about first impressions.

We deal with clients every day…and meet potential clients regularly.

How someone enters a room sets the tone for the meeting.

Consider our experience last week.

A major American brand exec is late for a dinner meeting. But he is so apologetic and humble that did we even care? Absolutely not.

A “hulk” of a man is also late for a lunch…but, again, humble…and fun as he explains why.  This is a guy who is already a star, and – we hope with our help – will be an even bigger star. But, again…his humility spoke volumes. Fortunately for us, he’s now a client.

And as for this one, it was one of those moments because of its sincerity I will never forget.  I had read about his accomplishments, and his nickname (The Boa Constrictor) said it all…but when he walked into the room there was a calm and peaceful aura that was inescapable. Somewhat shy…soft spoken…and sincere.

Then he told me about what had happened with his daughter just a few days earlier. We asked him to capture his story in print, and ABC has used it and will be doing a piece for an upcoming television special. It brought me back to 9/11…and the first call I was able to make to my family. They’ve told me how they felt, and I can only imagine what was going through his mind.

There has been a lot going on in our IPZ group, but meeting these three last week was a great reminder — sincerity…humility…and first impressions go a long, long way.

Good News to End the Year

The end of 2017 brought some good news to Zito Partners and IPZ.

At Zito Partners, Deborah Kostroun has been promoted to Managing Director of our firm. Deborah has done outstanding work for our clients, and her work ethic on their behalf has been exemplary. It is well deserved for the Texas native, who spent more than a dozen years in front of the camera at Bloomberg. You can read more about Deborah here: Deborah Kostroun Promoted to Managing Director of Zito Partners.

At IPZ, Patricia Stark has joined to open our Media & Entertainment Group, and Tony Dutt has joined to elevate our basketball group. Patricia also spent years in front of the camera and has become an outstanding coach for senior executives. You can read more about Patricia here: Patricia Stark Joins IPZ to Head Media & Entertainment Practice. Tony’s career is legendary, and the respect General Managers and athletes have for him is off the charts. His bio is here: Tony Dutt.

We’ve also shortened our name to simply IPZ, and updated the website www.ipzusa.com accordingly. Effective immediately, we have ended our “exclusive” agreement with Interperformances, but will still do some work with them on an individual athlete basis. Accordingly, we are now free to work with any overseas agency, and have already had conversations with some, and placed one of our athletes with the support of one. Jeff Curtin, our Managing Director, is spearheading this effort. Some of our male athletes are having phenomenal seasons in their European or Asian leagues, and a number of our women are killing it as well.

Last week, our IPZ Board member, Bob Hurley, was featured in a piece in The New York Times. It’s a great holiday read. The School Closed. The Players Left. But the Coach Can’t Quit.

Finally, please be safe this holiday season. Too often we hear of tragedies caused by carelessness, especially when it comes to candles starting fires. Our work with the FDNY Foundation constantly reminds us of this danger. We can all learn from the great work our firefighters do, and this piece reminds us of that. Please keep those who protect our cities, and our nation, in your prayers during the holidays.

Wishing you health, happiness and success in the year ahead…


Eli Manning and a Lesson in Leadership

(and why 57 years of rooting for this franchise just imploded)

Class Act.

Important description in any commentary.

Eli Manning is a Class Act.

No, he’s not the best quarterback; probably far from it.

Yes, he’s had some great games…and been the quarterback on two Super Bowl winning teams.

But he was the first to admit those wins were a team effort – and while he had some great games in those playoff runs, he realized he was on teams with great defenses, which put him in a position to be that winning quarterback.

Class Act.

As does every NFL team, Giants’ fans know Eli is not mobile. And today’s NFL mandates a quarterback is.

That doesn’t mean a Fran Tarkenton scrambler; it simply means someone who can move in the pocket…avoid pressure…and run for the important first down or touchdown when the offensive line collapses, or the defense simply hands you the yardage. Or to give defenses one more thing to think about.

So the Giants go into this season knowing they have an aging, immobile quarterback who needs some protection to get the ball to a supposedly talented corps of receivers.

And the “brilliant” GM never decides to upgrade the offensive line.

Eli never complains.

Class Act.

It’s a lesson in leadership for every manager. Never blame the troops. Be a team player. And when ownership agrees with the “brilliant” GM (and clueless head coach) to have you walk the plank, say while you don’t like the decision, you’ll do everything you can to help the new guy.

Class Act.

Great lesson.


The Kids Are Alright

Don’t go looking at the lyrics from The Who’s often-covered song, one that always made me wonder if I was actually listening to The Beatles.  This has nothing to do with that song.

Years ago, the firm I was with brought in a college intern from Rutgers.  He was excellent.  So good he was hired by two other companies I worked at. (Yes, I may have made a strong recommendation to hire him.)

I have been fortunate to work with some amazingly talented people on the teams I led at Sony, the NYSE, Bristol-Myers Squibb, and now here at Zito Partners and IPZ.

They not only did great jobs; they always put our companies – and now our clients – first, and made our management teams look pretty good while they were at it.

Some have moved on to amazing senior positions, and the companies they work for are smart for having them.

From one who is at a tech start-up focusing on education…to a pharmacy benefit manager…to a company on the forefront of the battle against cancer…to a financial industry regulator…to a video production company…the people I was fortunate to work with were exemplary…as are those still at Sony, the NYSE and BMS.  I said to a number of them when they were on my staffs, “someday, I’ll be working for you.”  And in fact, that has happened.  We have been fortunate to work for or with a number of those former employees as clients, or partner firms.

Last week, one of those young stars hosted a reception at the new “digs” for her company – an event management firm that started as a one-person shop in Manhattan, and now has 140 people in New York and London.

As I stopped up to the office to see her…saw the great space she’s in…talked with some of her employees and clients…listened to the band she had hired for the night, all I could think about was The Who.

Yep, the kids are alright.

Have a great Thanksgiving.


Saints Perform Miracles

On large screen televisions in living rooms and bars across the United States Wednesday night, sports fans got to learn first-hand about the “Miracle of St. Anthony,” and the Saint who made it all happen – Bob Hurley.

The introduction of Bob (Bob Hurley Wins Best Coach at ESPYS 2017) captured some of the man’s dedication to his players, and his success.  It didn’t capture what he did for the thousands of students who attended St. Anthony High School and didn’t play basketball, which was equally impressive.

We chronicled the plight of the school at the hands of the Newark Archdiocese here (Faith? I Lost Mine Last Week.) a few months ago.  It is widely rumored that the Archdiocese will receive about $15 million for the land St. Anthony’s is built on.  We speculated what might be done with the proceeds.  My bride has a great idea on how a portion should be spent, which I will close with.

Immediately after the Archdiocese decided to shutter the school, Bob Hurley went into a full court press, calling other schools asking them to take his students.  The 140 or so freshmen, sophomores and juniors at St. Anthony will be attending schools like Mater Dei, Roselle Catholic, Ranney, St. Peter’s Prep, Marist, Don Bosco, Immaculate Conception, and Christ the King – all because Bob got on the phone and pitched for his students.  And amazingly, almost all – with a few exceptions – will be charged the same tuition the students paid to attend St. Anthony.

And his coaches are moving on as well…to Perth Amboy, Marist and one out to Sacramento.

What’s next for Bob?  He can’t leave Jersey City.  He’s forming a non-profit organization, cut a deal with the City to rent a gym in downtown Jersey City and start an after school program for kids who need someplace to go to stay off the streets.

“It’s going to be a grass roots thing,” he said.  “I want them to learn how to play, but also have exposure to other sports.  We’ll run some clinics for them, bring in some speakers, provide education about the dangers of drugs…things these kids down here need.”

That’s the real “Miracle of St. Anthony.”  It’s “The Guy” who for almost his entire life – along with his wife Chris – dedicated himself to helping a community…and students…who needed help.

And what was the thanks the Archdiocese gave him?  The day after the last day of school Bob went back to St. Anthony to walk through the halls one more time…and found that the locks had already been changed.

Now to that to that great idea from my bride to the Archdiocese:  take a portion of the $15 million and pay for the high school education of those 140 students who just lost their school…and their Saint.  It’s a small consolation, but for all those students, it will help.