This Is What It’s Like to Be a Black Female NFL Agent

My Thing Is: Yes, I know the game. No, I won’t date clients. In this testosterone-fueled field, battling bias can be another full-time job.

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T.Therilus suit full photo
Theresa Therilus

R. Hawkins photography

Editor’s note: With this article we introduce a new column: My Thing Is, a place for The Root’s readers and contributors to reveal their personal narratives. Want to tell your story? Send pitches to MyThingIs@theroot.com.

I’m a 5-foot-4, 130-pound woman who loves her stilettos and pastel suits—especially pink ones.

What do I know about football? A lot.

As a longtime NFL agent and entertainment attorney, I’m as savvy as many of the 250-pounders on the field. And from my first Miami Dolphins game at the age of 9, where I sang to the fight song alongside my dad, to my trips to 23 of the 31 NFL stadiums, I’ve spent more time watching the sport than most people will in their lifetimes. 

Yet I still have to work to prove that I know even the basics. Shocking? Not really.

There’s a serious dearth of women, especially women of color, on the business side of the NFL. Yes, the league targets female fans through marketing of “Just for Her” NFL gear and the “Lingerie Football League.” But if you ask me, these efforts serve only to titillate the male football-fan population. Moreover, they display the league’s unwillingness to send a message that female fans can become any more than passive spectators of the sport, decked out in fitted jerseys designed to cling to their curves as much as to show their pride.

All of this, combined with societywide sexism, translates to how much women with careers tied to the NFL are valued. It’s no wonder that cheerleaders are paid less than male mascots. It’s no wonder that each week, fans fixate on Fox Sports reporter Pam Oliver’s hairstyle choices instead of on her work.

Even once I get past the assumption that I’m clueless and establish my NFL knowledge and qualifications (I’m a Harvard-educated lawyer with plenty of negotiation experience), I have been disappointed—though not surprised—when I’ve discovered that a potential client still held on to ulterior motives.

One potential first-round draft pick brought to my office a signed representation agreement—a rare move by a player of his caliber, especially vis-à-vis an agent who was not part of one of the larger NFL agencies. Just as I was about to fax the agreement to the NFL Players Association, he said, “I’m going to sleep with you one day.”

It took a few long seconds, but I pressed the cancel button on the fax machine, scratching a multimillion-dollar deal and career-defining opportunity. As I handed him back the agreement, I replied, “Not in a million years.”

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