By Stacy M. Brown
NNPA Newswire Senior Correspondent
Three years ago, The Undefeated featured Adisa Bakari, a former Division I-AA football player and founder of The Sports & Entertainment Group, a Washington, D.C.-based sports agency that represents some of the top athletes in the NFL and professional boxing.
After three seasons and realizing that a playing career wasn’t in the cards, Bakari mapped out a successful plan to represent athletes.
For African American sports agents like Bakari, the NFL represents a unique opportunity to represent athletes of color.
The most recent demographics show that 70 percent of the NFL’s approximately 1,700 players are black.
Over three days, beginning Thursday, April 23, about 256 young men were selected by NFL teams in the 2020 draft. What’s more, the Washington Post reported that for the first time in NFL history, more than half of the players selected in the first round of the draft were represented by Black agents.
It is the first round that guarantees the new college graduates million-dollar contracts and generation-altering wealth.
Seventeen of the 32 selections Thursday night counted African Americans among their representatives. (More than one agent represents some players.) The scattered remote locations did nothing to diminish the significance of the milestone for a group of elite, mostly under-40, African American agents.
They all say they’ve dealt with what they describe as implicit bias when making their pitches to families of all colors.
“I don’t think families entertained having an African American agent for a long time,” agent David Mulugheta, who led the list with four first-rounders, told the Post.
“People look at a young Black kid and think, ‘What can he really do for me?’ I still get that to this day, to be honest with you, and I’ve been in the business for a while. I think you have a lot of players now who feel they don’t have to go with the status quo.”
The newspaper broke down the agents in their selections (agents and the players):
• David Mulugeta – Isaiah Simmons, Jordan Love, A.J. Terrell, K’Lavon Chaisson
• Demarius Bilbo – Chase Young, Jeff Okudah, Mekhi Becton
• Tory Dandy – CeeDee Lamb, Cesar Ruiz
• Nicole Lynn – Jedrick Wills
• Rocky Arceneaux – Clyde Edwards
• Brian Overstreet – Jeff Gladney
• Stanley Wiltz – Patrick Queen
• Tracy Latrigue – Damon Arnette
• Jovan Barnes – Henry Ruggs III
• Charles Fisher – C.J. Henderson
• John Thornton – Andrew Thomas
All the contacted agents pointed to the late Eugene Parker as the “godfather” of Black agents who inspired many to pursue careers in the field, the Post noted. Parker, who died in 2016 at age 60, represented Hines Ward, Emmitt Smith, and Walter Jones, among others, and is often described as the first Black “super agent.”
“Eugene set the tone for all Black agents,” Lynn said.
Mulugheta added that “seeing him told a lot of people that you don’t need to be an athlete to stay involved in sports. Growing up, I never saw a Black agent, so that wasn’t something I saw as possible, but once I was leaving college, that’s when I found out about Eugene Parker.”