SBD/19/Sports Society

CHOOSING AN AGENT A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE FOR SOME ATHLETES

          The emergence of black agents was examined by HBO's
     Sonja Steptoe on "Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel."  In the
     piece, Steptoe spoke with numerous black agents, including
     Kevin and Carl Poston, Lamont Smith, Johnnie Cochran, and
     Bill Strickland, as well as white agents Drew Rosenhaus and
     Scott Casterline.  Steptoe: "Among the 1,500 black
     professional athletes in this country, less than 150 are
     represented by black agents."  Kevin Poston, on a "built-in
     resistance" to black agents: "A lot of them feel that white
     representation is the way to go, because they've been taught
     that.  Their parents said that."  Steptoe: "[Lamont] Smith
     already represents superstars Barry Sanders and Jerome
     Bettis, but by partnering with [Johnnie] Cochran, he hopes to
     build a dominant full-service, multi-sport firm by convincing
     more black athletes to choose black representation."  Smith:
     "If all other things are equal, then wouldn't you want to be
     someplace where you feel comfortable?  And, they very well
     may have that same comfort level with one of my white
     competitors, but what I'm betting most of the time is that's
     not going to be the case" ("Real Sports," HBO, 11/18). 
           A NEW FORCE: Steptoe: "It was after April's [NFL]
     draft, when six of the first seven players chosen were
     clients of black agents, that the competitive threat posed by
     black agents became a topic.  Casterline says that right up
     until draft day, black agents were using race to try and
     poach his clients."  Casterline, who represents Raiders CB
     Albert Lewis, among others: "It should be based on talent and
     performance and experience, not race."  Rosenhaus: "I think
     that the only color that should count in negotiations is
     green."  Strickland: "When you've got to go into an inner
     city and deal with a family problem ... that's not about
     money, that's about commitment.  My experience has been a lot
     of times the white agent can't deal with that."  Strickland,
     on whether encouraging black athletes to sign with black
     agents constitutes discrimination: "It may.  But so what? 
     We've been discriminated against" ("Real Sports," 11/18).  
          TALKING TOUGH ON THOMPSON: Kevin Poston, on Georgetown
     coach John Thompson, who steers his college players towards
     his agent, David Falk: "It's one thing for a white coach to
     say 'Look, I'm making sure my athlete goes with somebody
     white,' but when a black coach does that, that means no
     chance at all. ... We're not talking about serving black just
     to be black.  We're talking about competence, we're talking
     about opportunity. ... John owes it to his community." 
     Cochran, on white agents pointing to the success of the
     Postons and Eugene Parker: "They are having success on an
     individual basis. ... These major agencies that have all
     these athletes [who] are doing movies and merchandising. 
     There's no African-American agents that have moved into that
     yet. ... They haven't had the resources or the opportunity
     because of racism."  Poston: "Take what the media calls the
     top white agents in basketball and football, and take away
     the black athlete, and tell me where you are? ... You're out
     of business.  If the whites just represented the whites,
     they'd be having trouble.  These are our resources, these are
     our kids, this is our future" ("Real Sports," 11/18).

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