It’s often hard for women to be taken seriously in a male-dominated field such as the sports industry. However, we are beginning to see more and more women who are able to navigate their way into the all boys club and change the narrative of what it means to be a woman in sports. Nicole Lynn is one of the women who will help transform the conversation as she is the first black female sports agent to represent one of the top ten sports agencies, PlayersRep Sports Management, which was acquired by Lil’ Wayne’s Young Money APAA Sports Agency in 2017.
Black Enterprise caught up with Nicole Lynn to discuss what it’s like being a black female sports agent in an industry dominated by men, how she got her start in the industry, and what sets her apart from her male counterparts.
“There are so many random issues I face that my male counterparts will never understand,” says Nicole. “For example, I have to be extremely cautious about the outfits I choose. I have to find the fine line between being presentable and looking nice, but not too nice. You never want to look like you’re trying to stand out more than any other wife or mom in the room. The last thing you want to do is make a wife feel uncomfortable. So I battle with choosing a lipstick that isn’t too bright, heels that aren’t too high and a dress that isn’t too “dressy.” And to make matters worse, being a black woman who likes to change her hair frequently, I have to think of how potential clients will take it. Can I be the girl with Beyoncé weave? Will they be OK with my 3C natural hair with a twist out? Male agents never have to think about half of the potential issues black female agents silently battle.”
When asked how she got her start into the sports industry, Nicole admits to it being no easy task. She stated that she initially wanted to learn how to help athletes manage and retain their wealth. However, Nicole learned that the most influential person in an athlete’s life is not their financial adviser, but their agent. Nicole reveals that she was told that she should “rethink” her plans of being a sports agent.
“While working on Wall Street I learned that the most influential person in an athlete’s life is their agent, not necessarily their financial adviser,” she said. “After I determined I wanted to be a sports agent, I immediately applied to law school. I went to law school knowing I would later sit for the NFLPA agent exam. I worked at the NFLPA in Washington, D.C. before starting as an agent so I could learn everything I could about life after football.”
She continued, “In 2015, after passing both the Texas Bar and NFLPA exam, I started calling around to different sports agencies. Almost none returned my calls. I finally got one to answer, Ken Sarnoff. He basically told me that being a sports agent is hard and that I should rethink my plans. He even challenged me to get him a meeting with a certain NFL prospect with little faith that I would actually succeed. If you know me, then you know that I don’t give up. I called Ken back a couple hours later like “hey he’s available tomorrow, you got an opening?” From that point on, Ken understood that I had what it took to be in this industry. He hired me a week later and I joined the top 10 sports agency PlayersRep”
Being accepted into the sports industry as a woman is not an opportunity that is presented every day. Nicole Lynn says that confidence is key to being successful in the sports industry. When asked what sets her apart from her male counterparts, she says it’s her ability to wear so many different hats.
“I don’t want to take anything away from the men that work in this business,” she says. “There are a lot of very good male sports agents that truly care about their clients. However, I think one of the differences between me and my male counterparts is that I focus on more than just the NFL contract. I tap into the human element and the emotional aspect of the relationship with my client. I am a sports agent, but also a life coach, a financial adviser, a travel agent, a therapist, a friend, a sister, and a keeper of peace for my clients. I wear a lot of hats. Many men in this business refuse to wear those hats.”