It’s wild to think that in 2020 there are still so many industry milestones that black people have yet to cross. For this reason, it’s always encouraging to see racial barriers being broken. So black sports fans should be elated to learn that for the first time in NFL history, more than half of the first-round picks in this year’s draft are represented by black sports agents.
According to the Washington Post, 17 out of this year’s 32 first-round draft picks have black agents representing them. The Post spoke with some of these agents, and they all had the same thing to say: It’s hard out here for black professionals looking to be taken seriously.
“I don’t think families entertained having an African American agent for a long time,” David Mulugheta, who represents four of the 17 first-round picks, said. “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.”
When Nicole Lynn represented Quinnen Williams in the 2019 NFL draft, she became the first black woman to represent a top-five draft pick. She told the Post that being a black woman in this field can be rough because no one thinks you look the part.
“There’s always a struggle getting people comfortable with you doing the job,” she said. “And understanding that just because you don’t look like Jerry Maguire doesn’t mean you can’t do that job.”
Lynn and Mulugheta both said that while they have been greeted with skepticism by athletes and families of all colors, it is white athletes that have proven nearly impossible for them to sign.
“From my research, out of all the top black agents — David [Mulugheta], Tory [Dandy], myself, Chafie [Fields], [Damarius] Bilbo — not any of us have a single white player,” Lynn said. “I’m not talking about having a few white players. I’m saying not one. And between all of us, we’re talking about more than 150 players.
“And it’s not for lack of effort. I can’t get a white player, and I’ve tried. Literally my goal this year is to sign a white player. I want them to be able to believe in me because if we really want to change the way athletes view sports, we have to make everyone comfortable with us, not just people that look like us. The real test is to have people that don’t look like you buy in.”
Mulugheta echoed Lynn’s sentiments saying, “Name the last time a first-, second- or third-round white player was represented by a black agent. You can’t. I think the last time you had a white, first-round quarterback repped by a black agent was 2003: Rex Grossman, who had Eugene Parker.”
Agent Damarius Bilbo, who represents three of the first-round picks, said that, ultimately, he wants to be judged based on his abilities as an agent rather than by the color of his skin.
“Being able to go in a household of a white quarterback or offensive lineman and have them look at us for our abilities is the goal,” Bilbo said. “That would be a great day and an opportunity to break the mold, but I don’t look at it as a black or white thing. We look at it as: ‘Can we do the work? Can we perform?’ I know we can.”
Unfortunately, it certainly is a “black or white thing.” Hopefully the results of the 2020 NFL draft will prove to be part of a turning point for black professionals in and outside of the world of sports.