It’s no secret that black professional athletes have been represented by mostly white agents and white-owned sports agencies for decades.
This is why it was refreshing to see a report on Friday from the Washington Post that said 17 of the 32 selections in the first round of the NFL Draft were represented by at least one black agent. It was the first draft ever where a majority of NFL first-round picks had black management.
It’s an enormous step for the black community in helping to close the opportunity gap caused by institutional racism.
However, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out one glaring hole, one that many black athletes are failing to recognize.
And more specifically, starting their own player agencies.
Black agents have a unique struggle. They are often overly critiqued by both white players and black players because of an antiquated social ideology that views blacks as intellectually inferior. Especially when their job description doesn’t include playing in a sports arena or performing on a stage.
If black players opened their own sports agencies that focused on providing minority opportunities, it would not only open the door for aspiring black agents, it would create jobs for minority public relations professionals, graphic design artists, and video editors.
“There’s always a struggle getting people comfortable with you doing the job,” said Nicole Lynn, the first black woman to represent a top-five NFL draft pick. “And understanding that just because you don’t look like Jerry Maguire doesn’t mean you can’t do that job.”
The notion of starting these agencies isn’t new. Notable rappers have found great success with starting their own management companies that have provided access for many.
Lil Wayne founded the record label Young Money in 2005 and then continued to evolve its brand in 2016 when a division of the company called Young Money Sports merged with APAA sports group. The brand now represents NFL players such as Quinnen Williams, Mecole Hardman, and Lane Johnson.
While there are other black sports agencies that have carved out success in today’s climate, most notably Rich Paul’s Klutch Sports Group, the road to success for many of these aspiring black agents and agencies is still filled with roadblocks from rules that racially discriminate against certain groups.
Last year, the NCAA tried to implement a rule that required all agents to have a bachelor’s degree to serve as an agent. It was deemed by many as the “Rich Paul Rule” and seen as an attempt to thwart the success of one of the most powerful agents in sports who does not have a college diploma.Paul represents LeBron James, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons and Draymond Green among other NBA players. The agency also represents Chase Young and Jeff Okudah, two of the top three picks in the 2020 NFL Draft.
The NCAA amended its agent requirements shortly after the backlash, axing the degree requirement. However, the prospective rule served as another indication of how these power structures continued to disallow individuals from less prestigious backgrounds, and oftentimes individuals of color, an opportunity to be successful.
Not to mention, the preconceived racial biases that may exist on the executive level in sports franchises. Even Phil Jackson, The Zen Master, a man revered for his understanding of people, was ridiculed publicly for describing LeBron James’ business associates as his “posse” while he was the New York Knicks President in 2016.
This is what makes these athletes so vital in creating minority opportunities.
They can provide economic capital, public exposure, and valuable connections for these agencies that could be hindered by society otherwise.
Even if that means an athlete chooses not to start his own agency, but invest in another minority’s firm, the contributions could be vital.
If done well, athletes’ involvement in this arena could generate endless possibilities in minority communities. And it will continue to open the eyes of many in these environments, who would strive for more in their lives when they see people in these roles who look like them.
One of the best things the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft brought was progress.
But, most importantly, it clearly showed how much work we still have to do. .
It’s time for our black athletes to see the bigger picture.