Submitted to the AFRO by Jaia Thomas

The percentage of African-American players in the NFL is 70 percent. Meanwhile, the percentage of African-Americans who own an NFL franchise is 0 percent and the percentage of African-Americans who are presidents of an NFL franchise is also 0 percent. It is also worth noting that out of the six NFL agents who had the highest number of clients at the start of this year’s training camp – Drew Rosenhaus, Todd France, Joel Segal, Jimmy Sexton, Tom Cordon and Bus Cook, none were African-American.

While the statistics in the NBA fare a little better, there are still gaping racial disparities when it comes to the professional athletes and those hired to represent them.

Jaia Thomas is a Los Angeles-based sports, entertainment and intellectual property attorney. (LinkedIn Photo)

In 2018 we are currently immersed in this new era of athlete-activism, where more and more professional athletes are speaking out about the inequalities and injustices plaguing people of color in this country. However, what many professional athletes have failed to realize is that activism goes far beyond a tweet or an Instagram post. Truly successful social justice movements have always had their root in economics.

As Martin Luther King, Jr. aptly stated, “Always anchor our external direct action with the power of economic withdrawal. Never stop and forget that collectively — that means all of us together — collectively we are richer than all the nations in the world, with the exception of nine. Did you ever think about that? After you leave the United States, Soviet Russia, Great Britain, West Germany, France, and I could name the others, the American Negro collectively is richer than most nations of the world. We have an annual income of more than thirty billion dollars a year, which is more than all of the exports of the United States, and more than the national budget of Canada. Did you know that? That’s power right there…if we know how to pool it.”

In today’s current climate, it is more important than ever for more African-American athletes to consider pooling their money together and hiring representation that comes from the same communities they speak up on behalf of. Last season NFL salaries exceeded $5 billion. If just half of African-American NFL players hired African-American agents, attorneys, financial advisors and managers, the economic effect would be tremendous.

As a sports and entertainment attorney who represents several African-American clients, I’m oftentimes the only African-American on their team. I’ve asked clients repeatedly why they don’t have African-American agents or financial advisors and one of the reasons I’ve frequently heard is, “I don’t know any.” So, in an effort to fill an informational void, I recently launched DiverseRepresentation.com

Diverse Representation is a comprehensive database that lists African-American sports (as well as entertainment) agents, attorneys, financial advisors and managers across the country. It is the first database of its kind. Currently there is no fee to access the list and this fall the site will expand to include additional features, such as in-depth one-on-one interviews with professionals listed on the site.

The professionals listed on Diverse Representation includes such superagents as Washington D.C.-based Jim Tanner, who owns Tandem Sports and Entertainment, a full-service sports and entertainment agency. He currently represents such all-stars as Grant Hill, Ray Allen and Tim Duncan. Other professionals listed on the site range from Nicole Lynn, a sports agent with Young Money APAA to Rich Paul, CEO of Klutch Sports and agent to LeBron James.

The power dynamics within the NFL, and the sports and entertainment industry in general, will never truly shift until there is an economic shift. Now has never been a more crucial time for the racial makeup of the agents, managers, financial advisors, attorneys, owners and presidents of sports leagues to accurately reflect and mirror the racial makeup of players. As African-Americans it will always be difficult to effectuate change when we aren’t in the rooms where change is being made.

Jaia Thomas is a Los Angeles-based sports, entertainment and intellectual property attorney. She is also an adjunct professor at UCLA and regularly lectures on the intersection of race and sports.

The opinions on this page are those of the writers and not necessarily those of the AFRO.

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