September 16, 2015 by peterott
Special Preview of Upcoming Sonny Vaccaro Podcast
I just finished recording a new podcast with legendary sports marketing executive Sonny Vaccaro. It should be a good one, as we covered a wide variety of topics including his time with Nike, his dealing with Michael Jordan, his innovations in grassroots basketball, and his advocacy on behalf of college athletes. I plan on releasing it next week.
Sonny’s life was chronicled in the excellent ESPN 30 For 30 documentary Sole Man, which you should certainly see if you have not watched it yet. It is available for free on the ESPN website in episodes and also on Netflix. That movie looks at Sonny’s life through the eyes of many different people, each of whom has a different perspective about him.
Sonny is used to people speaking about him negatively. He’s been called a “sneaker pimp” and for decades people have associated him with the oft-discussed shady practices surrounding amateur, high school, and college athletics. Sonny is someone deeply intertwined with the history of basketball. He is a large reason why Michael Jordan signed a shoe deal with Nike and also a large reason why Nike offered the ground-breaking deal to Jordan in the first place. He created showcase basketball tournaments for prep stars to play in and provided a place for college coaches to scout and interact with these players. He negotiated the first all-school all-sport deal between the University of Miami and Nike. He’s done a lot in the business of sports.
However, in this phase of his life Sonny has turned his attention to something different. He has taken to advocating on behalf of college athletes, in support of compensating them. He thinks they are currently being exploited and is not afraid to speak about it and explain why. He has gained a lot of publicity speaking about these issues and a lot of people question why he is doing this. Some state that he is doing it to atone for his past actions. But Sonny says he doesn’t need to atone for anything. His work precipitated a huge inflow of cash into college athletics, and he says that it is only fair that the college athletes receive some of that money.
Sonny spoke about this last year at UVA Law. It’s a long video, but it’s worth a watch:
As the above video shows, Sonny is a passionate speaker. You might not agree with him, but you’re going to want to hear what he has to say. Stay tuned for a discussion with him next week on the Sports Law Biz Podcast.