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How Sports Agent Nicole Lynn Is Making Major League Money Moves In A Male-Dominated Industry

"The goal is not simply to be accepted. The goal will always be to break stereotypes and shift attitudes towards the presence of women in male-dominated spaces."

BOSS UP

There's something truly admirable about black women who aren't afraid to break barriers, get their hands dirty, or march towards success to the beautiful rhythm of their goals and ambitions. When a black woman wins, it feels like we all win. And as a black woman whose no stranger to the heart and hustle it takes to be successful, Agent Nicole Lynn is a living testament of that truth.

The sports agent/practicing attorney has recently had booming notoriety due to what she's been able to accomplish in the realm of sports, specifically the NFL. Most notably, Lynn earned the title of first female agent to ever represent a top NFL agency, PlayersRep, which would eventually become acquired by Lil Wayne's Young Money APAA Sports. Since then, Lynn has continued to set trails ablaze. Her clientele varies from coaches of both NCAA and NFL teams, to public figures in the entertainment world with an extensive list boasting names that include players from the Oakland Raiders, Denver Broncos, and even a prima ballerina. More recently, she's gained significant recognition as the first black woman to represent a Top 3 draft pick in the NFL with NY Jets Defensive Tackle, Quinnen Williams.

Agent Nicole Lynn pictured with Quinnen WilliamsCourtesy of Nicole Lynn

One thing's for sure, Agent Lynn doesn't believe in playing small. And if her track record isn't any indication, she didn't just come to play, she came to win.

In this xoExclusive, Lynn chats with us about her career journey, her history-making wins, and how she stays on top of her game on and off the football field:

xoNecole: When you were in college at OU [The University of Oklahoma], sports were obviously monumental to you. After that, you went from law school to Wall Street. At what point did you decide this was the career path you wanted to pursue, or did you always know this was something you wanted to do at some point?

Nicole Lynn: I didn't always know the exact title of the role I wanted, but I knew I wanted to help athletes to be successful both on and off the field. Because of this, every single move I made was to reach this goal. Every educational and career decision I made has been extremely calculated with the same endgame in mind. I realize it can be rare for someone to almost always have known what they wanted to do in life, but that was the case for me.

Credit: Farran Manuel with Farran Manuel Photography

"Every educational and career decision I made has been extremely calculated with the same endgame in mind. I realize it can be rare for someone to almost always have known what they wanted to do in life, but that was the case for me."

xoNecole: Speaking of keeping your education and career in alignment with what you ultimately came to do, I had no clue law school was a prerequisite to becoming a sports agent prior to learning about you. Can you explain what your educational path was in pursuit of becoming a sports agent?

NL: I didn't just attend the University of Oklahoma because it was in my home state. OU is a football powerhouse where many of the athletes go on to play in the NFL. After completing a business management degree, I went to law school knowing that it would prepare me for the NFL Players Association (NFLPA) agent exam. I interned with the NFLPA before starting as an agent so I could learn everything I could about life after football. I pursued a career in finance knowing that my purpose there was to soak in everything I could to help athletes retain wealth.

xoNecole: As the first black woman to walk this lane and take on this role in your career, did you know going into this field that you would be the first? And does it add any pressure to your day-to-day? 

NL: Simply being a woman in this industry, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on me every day. Now, add the fact that I am black and only 30. All of that together is a recipe for immediate doubt and underestimation from both potential clients and fellow sports agents. It's very important to me that I don't allow that to put me in a place where I begin to doubt my own abilities. I know that I have worked extremely hard to get here and that I am just as capable as my male counterparts. For this reason, I went into this industry knowing that I didn't want to just exist. I made it a goal of mine to break stereotypes and make history. When my client's name was called at the 2019 NFL Draft, two people's dreams came true. I am very grateful for the opportunity to be recognized as the first and I look forward to continuing to shift the perception of women in this industry.

Credit: Farran Manuel with Farran Manuel Photography

"Simply being a woman in this industry, it puts an enormous amount of pressure on me every day. Now, add the fact that I am black and only 30. All of that together is a recipe for immediate doubt and underestimation from both potential clients and fellow sports agents. It's very important to me that I don't allow that to put me in a place where I begin to doubt my own abilities."

xoNecole: Oftentimes when navigating predominantly male spaces, we feel the need to blend instead of embracing the things that make us women. What are some ways you own your identity and what are some ways that being a woman in your field might’ve posed a challenge in your career?

NL: People are always shocked when I say that one of my biggest challenges in the sports business is choosing how to style myself for meetings and events. You'll likely catch me in a 5-inch heel and red lipstick on any given day, but I am always very conscious of the way I look because it is what people will see and judge me on first. It's a struggle to say the least, but I am very lucky to have a team that helps me balance my look and stand out as a respected woman in this industry. I am very adamant about not being "one of the boys". I want to be a woman that receives the same level of opportunity and respect as my male counterparts. The goal is not simply to be accepted. The goal will always be to break stereotypes and shift attitudes towards the presence of women in male-dominated spaces. We are just as knowledgeable, hard-working, and deserving as men with similar qualities.

xoNecole: How are you able to balance keeping up with a busy schedule as a wife without one role superseding the other?

NL: I can't lie, it is very difficult to manage my career and personal life. I often share how crazy it is to have two full-time careers on my social media. I'm at the law office most of the week, working sports when I get home at night, and traveling all over the place for my clients on the weekends. I'm sure you can imagine that it is easy for me to be exhausted a lot of the time. However, I am extremely lucky to have an amazing support system surrounding me. I don't know what I would do without my husband. I am so blessed to share this journey with someone that is so genuinely supportive and makes sure that I keep my head on straight. We are really each other's biggest cheerleaders. Also, my friend circle is unmatched! My girls always make sure I'm straight and hold me accountable for dedicating time to self-care. They literally call or Facetime me on my off-day to make sure I'm actually relaxing. God has truly blessed me with family and friends that have my back just as much as I have theirs.

Credit: Farran Manuel with Farran Manuel Photography

"I am very adamant about not being 'one of the boys'. I want to be a woman that receives the same level of opportunity and respect as my male counterparts. The goal is not simply to be accepted. The goal will always be to break stereotypes and shift attitudes towards the presence of women in male-dominated spaces. We are just as knowledgeable, hard-working, and deserving as men with similar qualities."

xoNecole: It’s been such an honor conversing with you, but before I let you go, I just want to mention that being a woman who is also slowly working her own way into the sports industry and finally having someone to look up to well into my adult life, you really do inspire me. What would be your advice to young women who are looking to get into the sports industry as well?

NL: Be dedicated to gaining as much knowledge as you possibly can, even if there is very little financial gain in the beginning. Sometimes the best payment you can get is not monetary. I would also encourage seeking both a mentor and a sponsor. Someone that can guide you and help you learn how to make the best professional decisions, and then someone who is in a decision-making position and has the influence to actually move your career forward. Lastly, I strongly encourage knowing your worth and being unapologetically confident in your abilities. If you have put in the work and you possess the knowledge and skills necessary to get the job done, then you deserve that seat at the table. Don't allow anyone to tell you differently.

For more on Nicole Lynn, follow her on Instagram and visit her website.

Featured image by Farran Manuel with Farran Manuel Photography

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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