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CHOOSING AN AGENT A BLACK AND WHITE ISSUE FOR SOME ATHLETES
Published November 19, 1997
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).