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Sports-law symposium links athletes, attorneys

November 16, 2000

Mike Peplowski, a former MSU and NBA basketball star, remembered being skeptical of agents and lawyers when he went professional.

And while his experience was positive, he admits he’s heard his share of horror stories.

Peplowski came to campus Tuesday along with Howard Soifer - an attorney who represents former Spartans and current NBA stars Mateen Cleaves and Steve Smith - in an attempt for students to learn more about the relationships between athletes, agents and attorneys.

Their presence was part of the first annual Fall Symposium, which was sponsored by the Entertainment and Sports Law Society at the MSU-Detroit College of Law. The forum was held Tuesday in the Castle Board Room at MSU-DCL.

With his contract from the Sacramento Kings, it didn’t matter whether Peplowski played every game or was cut from the team.

He got his money.

As it happened, he was cut and was picked up by the Detroit Pistons, where he spent only 40 days as part of the team before being offered a contract overseas. Football Club Barcelona offered him a spot on its professional basketball team for more money than Peplowski was making in the NBA.

“I packed my entire life into two duffle bags in 24 hours to go to Spain,” Peplowski said.

He referred to that one-year period as his best financially. He said his secure financial condition was mostly due to his agent who was able to find the opportunities for him.

“I basically kissed the ground my agent walked on,” Peplowski said. “He had the connections.”

Soifer spoke after Peplowski, trying to give the audience an idea of what it is like to be an attorney practicing in the field of sports and entertainment. Soifer said he is living a dream being able to represent professional athletes.

“Since I was 6 years old I was in love with the business aspect of sports,” Soifer said. “I would lie awake at night thinking about how lucky the people were who represented athletes.”

Soifer said he enjoys planning out the financial and professional aspects of athletes’ contracts. He said he takes some amount of pride in knowing he had something to do with the financial security his clients are able to enjoy.

Soifer also played a part in developing resources on MSU’s campus with Smith. Soifer created a plan so Smith could donate more than $2.5 million to set up the Clara Bell Smith Student-Athlete Academic Center in memory of his late mother.

Robert McCormick, faculty adviser of the Entertainment and Sports Law Society, said he was very pleased with the forum.

“This is a perfect example of what students can do when they have a passion,” he said.

Second-year law student Carlos Diponio said he attended the event because he is pursuing a career in the sports and entertainment law field.

“This was really educational,” he said. “There was an excellent dynamic from both speakers that allowed them to set away the myths from the realities.”

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