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Wednesday, August 17, 2022

Davis: The rise of Black sports agents

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Sports agents get in on the life of luxury, glamour and fame in an industry where agents compete heavily against each other to sign the biggest superstar athletes in their respective sports. Trying to get them the best contracts for their playing careers, the best marketing opportunities, the best endorsement deals, philanthropic opportunities and the best advice on how they can invest their money into businesses, startups and back into their communities. Many don’t see with the glamour comes a “sales pitch” and a trust factor, one that has not always fallen into the winning column of African American sports agents.

Last year we saw a groundbreaking shift within the sports agency world when more than half of the players selected in the first round of the NFL draft were represented by Black agents. This was the first time that has happened. Seventeen of the first-round selections, to be exact, were represented by Black agents. To add to that, five out of the first 10 players drafted in the first round of the 2020 NFL draft were represented by African American agents, which is a new record. Some of those African American agents who represent some of those first round picks in the 2020 NFL draft are David Mulugheta of Athletes First Agency, Nicole Lynn of Young Money APAA Sports and Lifestyle Agency, Damarius Bilbo of Klutch Sports Group Agency and John Thornton of Roc Nation Sports.

Black agents have had a history of unique struggle in this industry. More than 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.

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 impede 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 many 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.

Rich Paul was seen as a threat to the status quo and to the hierarchy of power. And to the image of an industry that is still dominated by individuals who don’t look like him that has long exercised fiscal and moral authority over Black athletes. You can see how Black agents are making huge positive impacts from the most popular and respected sports leagues in the world from the NBA to the NFL and to the MLB and laying out the ground work for others to follow in this business. In the future, it would be great and inspiring to see Blacks in this industry continue to thrive and dominate in this hard maneuvering industry. All we ever wanted in this industry was a seat at the table.

Devon Davis is a public policy specialist at Bose Public Affairs Group. Contact him at ddavis@bosepublicaffairs.com.

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