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Friday, November 14, 2003
Updated: November 17, 12:09 AM ET
Bonds will be individually licensed

By Darren Rovell
ESPN.com

NEW YORK -- Going, going, gone.

Barry Bonds
Bonds

That's what San Francisco Giants slugger Barry Bonds has told the Major League Baseball Players Association's licensing arm.

Bonds informed the union that he would not be signing the organization's group licensing agreement next year and would instead pursue licensing opportunities on his own.

Players usually sign the group licensing agreement, which allows companies that obtain MLBPA licenses the right to use players' names and likenesses on their products. In exchange for their rights, the players get a percentage of the sale of the products such as trading cards and video games.

The signing of the agreement is usually a formality. In fact, Bonds will become the first union member in the 30-year history of the licensing program not to sign it, said Judy Heeter, director of business affairs and licensing for the MLBPA.

Eric Levin, president of Pro Access Inc., which does the marketing for Bonds, declined comment.

Bonds' decision will have immediate repercussions for baseball fans, who will not be able to purchase Bonds items in MLBPA licensed products, including trading cards and video games. Bonds can sell his licensing rights individually.

Heeter said Bonds can appear separately in card sets, if companies work out deals with him.

"Barry, don't do this! Please, come back!" begged Bill Dully, president of Donruss trading cards.

Dully says Bonds' decision not to participate in the group licensing agreement will make it very hard for card companies to capitalize on his closing in on the all-time home run crown.

Video game companies can get around not having Bonds by featuring a player with a lot of power on the Giants, but without using Bonds' name or number.

While Bonds is the first player to do this in baseball, the move is not unprecedented. Michael Jordan was not part of the NBA Players Association's group licensing agreement, and Washington Redskins linebacker Lavar Arrington has not signed the NFL Players Association's group licensing agreement.

Heeter said she is not concerned that other MLB players will follow Bonds' lead.

"I believe this situation is unique," said Heeter. "For the licensees, we provide them a one-stop shop for securing the rights to the players which would otherwise be impossible to obtain independently. For the players, we provide them with the personnel to market and protect their rights."

Darren Rovell, who covers sports business for ESPN.com, can be reached at Darren.rovell@espn3.com.