Last week, I was critical of people who came forward with secondhand, flimsy information alleging agent impropriety. Well, Louis Johnson, a former business associate of Rodney Guillory, blew the whistle on alleged improper relationships involving O.J. Mayo, Rodney Guillory (an LA-based promoter with a questionable past) and Bill Duffy & Associates, a sports agency. Johnson, who does have some character issues, spoke at length with ESPN’s Kelly Naqi.
A disclaimer: I am friends with Bill Duffy and Calvin Andrews. In fact, Bill gave me a nice endorsement quote for my book. I would be disappointed if it is proven that BDA was bankrolling Guillory, particularly without Mayo’s knowledge. I also know the whistleblower, Louis Johnson.
I’ve written a lot about the specter of agents providing direct and indirect benefits to high school and college players. While there are relevant issues related to NCAA rules and amateurism, I doubt I have anything new to add. Definitely read Yahoo!'s Dan Wetzel. And listen to Dan Patrick's interview with Sonny Vaccaro. My focus is on elite athletes negatively impacted by agents and their intermediaries who use money to buy them on the cheap.
I tell athletes, hypothetically, if the NCAA said tomorrow it
was no longer a violation to take extra benefits from agents and runners, I
would still argue strongly that they absolutely should not accept agents' money. The
reasons have been discussed ad nauseam on this blog. Most important, when it comes time to select an agent, I
want athletes choosing the best agents based on merit, not illicit relationships
A few interesting exchanges and tidbits from Kelly Naqi's investigation:
Kelly Naqi interviewed O.J.'s mother in February 2008
Naqi: Do you trust Rodney?
O.J.'s mother: No.
O.J.'s mother: It's a mama feeling. I don't know yet. If Rodney's intentions are good, fine. If it ever plays out that it's not, it's going to go be terrible.
Selling O.J. on the cheap
Lous Johnson on how much money BDA provided to Guillory
"I know there were roughly anywhere between $200 and $250,000 in cash and other benefits that came from the relationship with BDA.
On how much went directly to O.J.
"My best estimate would be maybe $30,000 max for him and the people that were associated him. Most of that stuff never really made it to O.J. OJ really saw a lot of the scraps. The fact of the matter is OJ has been pimped by Rodney."
On whether O.J. was complicit in his dealings
Johnson: O.J. wasn't as complicit in some of the things that happened. And I think I've proven that because he wasn't the direct beneficiary of a lot of things that was happening.
Naqi: But he got something he wouldn't have access to he wouldn't to otherwise and he got what he wanted.
Johnson: Yeah, but at the same time, how can you, I or anyone else really sit here and blame him when his circumstances?...He played within the rules of the game. And this is the game: runners, agents, shoe companies, other elements. This is the game. He had no choice but to play it considering his circumstance, considering what was going on in his life, considering how he was living.
The most direct, damning evidence
In an ESPN Chat on Monday, Kelly Naqi wrote, "OJ told [ESPN's Andy] Katz last night that he did not 'receive any money from Calvin or Rodney or anything.' However, the cell phone number that Katz used to get that quote from Mayo was the same number that shows up on Mayo's September cell phone bill, which we obtained, which shows that that number was billed to Guillory's non-profit organization in California called the ICR Foundation. We also obtained proof that Guillory made the initial purchase of that particular cell phone of OJ's."
Best warning since, "Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States"
In an October 2006 article CBSSportsline's Greg Doyel forewarned: "Burned by Bush, Southern California should be of wary Mayo."
While Johnson's claim that he is trying to save O.J. is dubious, I think basketball on many levels will benefit from these poorly-kept secrets being exposed. Kelly Nagy said in an ESPN chat earlier today, "The NCAA has already contacted me about my report. Based on that conversation, I suspect they'll be looking into this." Stay tuned.