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African American sports agents strike out with African American athletes

James Clingman | 7/9/2013, 3:28 a.m.
James Clingman

(NNPA) – Let me make a “pitch” (pun intended) for Black sports agents. Watching the NBA playoffs and finals was more than an exercise in pulling for my favorite teams; it was also a very frustrating experience for me because I tend to look at most things from an economic perspective.

While Black athletes dominate football and basketball, and have a major presence in baseball, relatively few of them hire Black attorneys, accountants and agents, thereby, putting as much as 5 percent of their contract amount into someone else’s economy.

For years now, we have seen this intriguing phenomenon. In 1995, Black Enterprise magazine ran an article titled “MVPs,” that shed light on this subject. R. David Ware, noted for negotiating the largest non-quarterback (Barry Sanders) contract in the NFL, voiced his frustration about the situation this way: “It is so disheartening that so few African Americans are given the opportunity to represent African American players … they wear Kente cloth and talk about pride in their heritage, but when it comes to business affairs, they don’t use African American lawyers, agents or accountants.”

You would think African American college graduates would know better. But, in my opinion, they lack a consciousness that would have them act otherwise, and many have virtually no knowledge, or interest for that matter, in Black business history and the role they play in this nation’s economic system. They are noted more for their shoe, soft drink, and fast food commercials, rather than their commitments to conscious capitalism. They have become fashion icons instead of paragons of Black empowerment. My suggestion to one of my students who played basketball at the University of Cincinnati was to develop a relationship with a fellow student who was majoring in finance, law or business, and hire that person as an agent when he turned professional.

Let me pause here and say, I am not using a broad brush to paint all Black athletes (and entertainers). I know many of them are doing very positive things when it comes to supporting African American business persons and causes. In addition, far be it from me to dictate to anyone how to spend their money. So, please, as you read this, just take it as a recommendation for economic empowerment for Black people.

There are too many Black athletes who refuse to hire other African Americans. Considering how much money these guys earn, if they used Black professionals, it would have a huge effect on the African American economy. Imagine how many Black real estate agents could earn commissions on the mansions purchased and sold by Black athletes. It makes no sense for us to keep crying over what we do not have, while we are steadily giving what we do have away to others.

As our youth are practicing their sport of choice, they should also spend some time learning how to practice collective economics. It is one thing to have millions of dollars, but knowing what to do and not to do with that money is far more important. Just ask Allen Iverson, Kenny Anderson and Antoine Walker. Twenty-year-olds need good advice on how to spend and invest millions of dollars. And they must be exposed to the fact that Black professionals can provide that advice. The Jerry Maguire’s of the business must get up every morning and thank their lucky stars for Black athletes.