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Unlike other sports lists, BLACK ENTERPRISE approached The 50 Most Powerful African Americans in Sports from a business perspective. Athletes make millions, but who are the people who hire and fire athletes — and coaches — sign them to big contracts, and control forces within sports? BE worked with various professional and collegiate sports organizations, industry insiders, and experts to determine the big players on and off the field. The list is broken down into eight categories and represents the all-stars of sports.
Turn on just about any major sports program, and you’re likely to see black athletes excelling. Baseball’s Barry Bonds, football’s Curtis Martin, Shaquille O’Neal in the NBA, and the NHL’s Jerome Iginla are all exceptional athletes.
But the true power in sports is behind the scenes. The agent who hammers out the multimillion contract, the front-office executive who negotiates with the agent, or the corporate executive who determines which athlete will be the spokesperson for their product. Sports is big business. According to SportsBusiness Journal, the combined revenues of the sports industry is more than $213 billion. And the power lies with those who have control over the business aspect of the industry. Sadly, while African Americans continue to dominate on the field, there remains a gross disparity between blacks and nonblacks when it comes to the decision makers in the sports industry.
Because of the success of African Americans on the field, the accomplishments of black front-office executives and agents often go overlooked. Despite their too-few numbers, the editors at BLACK ENTERPRISE decided it was time to recognize their accomplishments by compiling a list of the top African Americans in sports.
We approached this list from a business perspective. Superstar athletes live in the spotlight but we also looked at who’s controlling revenues, signing athletes, and hiring and firing coaches.
The true opportunities in sports are in the boardroom, not the locker room. And the true MVPs are those making gains behind the scenes. Who are these all-stars? Over the next 13 pages, we’ll introduce them to you.
Agents/Promoters: For every multimillion-dollar sports deal, there’s an agent who negotiated the terms, hammered out the details, and received a cut of the pie. Those eligible for this category have careers that span decades and have successfully negotiated lucrative contracts for star athletes.
Athletes: Outperforming the competition and generating fan interest is the dream of most professional athletes, but to make our list, athletes had to excel on the playing field as well as land lucrative endorsement deals. Those considered for this category had to revitalize or redefine their sport. The economic impact of these athletes on their respective sports is unquestionable.
Collegiate: If college sports is big business, Division 1-A universities are the mega-corporations. At the helm of these programs are decision makers who manage budgets, oversee multiple sports programs, and determine who coaches their teams. Participants within this category have demonstrated substantial authority in their universities and/or collegiate sports as a whole.
Corporate Executives: Although not employed by the leagues themselves, these execs have vast influence