*History was made during this year’s NFL draft for black players and the agents who represent them.
For the first time in NFL history, 17 players in the first round of the draft were represented by black agents. Some of those agents had multiple players who were selected in the first round.
With one of the highest picks–Andrew Thomas who was the fourth player selected–agent John Thornton is part of the history that was made. Thornton is an NFL agent for Roc Nation Sports.
The fame of Roc Nation is widespread with its star-studded list of clients. Headed by one of its own most famous clients, Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, Roc Nation has an entertainment client list of more than 20 singers that includes Alicia Keys, Rihanna, J. Cole, a sports list of more than 70 pro athletes that includes Kyrie Irving, CC Sabathia, and Saquon Barkley, and a ‘personalities’ list of several former athletes who are public figures in broadcast and other industries.
In more ways than one, Thornton is in his element with Roc Nation Sports. He is a celebrated 10 year NFL veteran, a field where the average longevity is three years. After notable NFL success, Thornton successfully transitioned to a ‘post-career’ which is another challenge that many former professional athletes face. Thornton, however, prepared himself for his post [sports] career with thoughts of entering media or player relations. His post-career has included working with players, becoming an agent, owning then selling his agency, and signing on with Roc Nation Sports. He currently has a client list that includes Andrew Thomas, Jaire Alexander, Nick Kwiatkoski, and Hue Jackson.
I secured a one-on-one interview with Thornton to get his unique perspective, having been part of this year’s historic NFL draft.
Foremost, Thornton is excited for his client Andrew Thomas who he defines as “a really good player.” Thornton credits Thomas with doing the work it took to get him drafted so high. Thomas’s talent and performance allowed Thornton to be “really confident” about where he would place in the draft.
One of the major differences this year with the agent-player relationship is remote communication, due to the COVID 19 crisis. Thornton talked about how typically he is involved with brokering communication with his clients and teams, as well as keeping a log of who is calling about them when they are calling, and other details he finds important.
Thornton brings a unique approach to being an agent because he has also been a player. He believes a good agent lets his clients know “what’s happening and what’s gonna happen.” As both a former NFL player and a current agent, Thornton is able to do that.
“I can really talk to the guys about it [the process]…try to make it easy for them so when things happen they understand it.”
Thornton says a good agent goes beyond securing a contract.
“Outside of the contract work, you gotta have a realistic approach to these things…keep the expectations in the right place.”
Thornton sees himself as a “flashlight when [they are] going down a dark alley.”
While defining his role as an agent, Thornton included:
“But, I’m a player too. I think like a player at times. So, I can come in and maybe tell you some things that other people can’t.”
“I’ve been there, you know, I’ve been through the draft process. I played in the Senior Bowl. I went to the NFL combine. I did the Pro Days.”
Thornton says he’s “very honest about if you’re a good player, multiple teams are going to want you.” As part of Roc Nation Sports, he says: “We’re going to do the work necessary for [the client] to be in the best position possible.”
According to Thornton, the “right position” is not always financial. He says that “being a player [him]self,” he advises players to “try to make as most [sic] money as you can as a player because once you’re done, you’re done.” On the other side of that, Thornton talks about his former client, Michael Johnson, whose playing career included Tampa Bay and Cincinnati.
“I got him a great contract. Right. He didn’t like where he went.”
“He was making nine million a year and he wasn’t that happy…When he was on a team making 6 million a year he was super happy because he loved that team and he loved those players.”
“So I think the agent has to understand what the player wants. Yes, I’m gonna try to get you the biggest contract I can get you; that’s my job.”
Even so, Thornton says that the agent has to know what is most important to the player.
Andrew Thomas, Thornton’s client in this year’s draft, should have a contract that is upwards of 32 million based on how rookie contracts are slotted.
Thornton says of the draft itself:
“I think it’s good for the industry, you know, to have the diversity.”
He says that some of the changes in black representation are because “it’s up to the players on what they’re comfortable with.”
“I think now, everything’s opened up.”
“I’m very happy that we had a great year as far as black agents. It’s just kind of leveling the playing field.”
Still, he believes “true diversity is going to come” when black agents can sign white players. When they can go to wherever in the south and get the same access with white clients.
What sets Thornton apart is that he does represent a client who is white. Although most black agents have many top tier players, one agent commented about not being able to list one black agent who has a white client.
Thornton is pleased that he has a client who is a “unicorn” in the industry. He hopes that the future holds more opportunities for all kinds of diversity.
“Hopefully they don’t just see me as a black agent; they see me as an agent that can do the job.”
Thornton is happy about the expanding diversity in his field and points out Nicole Lynn, a black female agent who represented one of the clients in the first round this year. He also points out that Roc Nation is the most diverse company he has worked with at any level of his career.
He concludes the interview with encouraging words about the pandemic. He says that he tells his players “just be ready for when things open up; be ready to hit the group running.” He says to everyone:
“Don’t let this time just to be idle. Try to find something to be better at during this time…Find something to make yourself better. Read a book. Listen to a podcast. You know. Try to do something that will help you.”
“As a player, try to find something that’s going to help you post-career. You know. Or, make sure you’re training every day.”
“In the grand scheme of things, I don’t know what to say to make it better for people because we’re all in the same boat, but I would just say find something during this time every day…to make yourself better.” He expands on the kindness and personal changes everyone can work toward.
In the full video interview with Thornton, he elaborates on the nuances of being an agent, expands further on diversity in sports, and offers encouragement for everyone that is inspiring.
Jermayne (@JJermayne Writes) is the author of 6 published books; 3 are sports themed. Jermayne freelance writes and travels to cover sports, entertainment and cultural events.
Blair Underwood and Jay Pharaoh On Roles in New Hulu Film ‘Bad Hair’ / WATCH
“Bad Hair” is a new horror-comedy written, produced and directed by Justin Simien (“Dear White People”). The film is set in 1989 Los Angeles in the world of a music video television network.
It stars Elle Lorraine (“Insecure”) as Anna, an assistant at “Culture” who is trying to move into an on-camera spot. At the suggestion of her new boss, Anna gets a killer new weave, that has a mind of its own.
Blair Underwood also stars in the film as Anna’s Uncle Amos Bludso. He’s a constant supportive presence in Anna’s life, and someone she turns too as she unravels the mystery with her hair. EURweb correspondent Jill Munroe talked with Blair and the other male lead in the film, Jay Pharaoh, about men and their relationship with hair, plus changing yourself to get ahead.
Jill: Do Black men have the same experiences with hair as women?
Blair: No, you know better than that. We like to present ourselves well. We like to be dressed when we can, color coordinated when we can. Got to get the hair sliced up. Get the fade going. But it’s on a different level. I have a mother and I have two sisters, and I have a wife and a daughter now. It’s on a different level in terms of the time and certainly the money… that’s why I thought this project – created by Justin Simien who wrote, directed and produced this – I really thought this was brilliant and a stroke of genius, to put this story – which is all about a weave that’s possessing people. A hair possession story or tale, which is a Japanese and Korean genre of horror – I’ve never seen that in American cinema. So, to deal with an aspect of hair possession, in Black culture, knowing what our hair means to us – and our protagonist (Anna) played by Elle Lorraine – to put that in the walk and lived experience of a Black woman, I thought that was genius.
Jill: There are very many layers that we go through in this film. For Anna, she changed to get into the room. In your opinion, is there ever a time to conform to get the opportunity to step into the room?
Blair: If you’re asking me, absolutely. I think compromise is important. It depends on how far you want to get ahead. But as you compromise, you don’t lose sight of yourself. You can’t lose sight of your integrity and where you’re going inside of yourself. If you have a six-foot afro, and your boss says, “that’s cool, I need you to cut it down to a half an inch. If that’s going to allow you to pay your bills, handle your business and take care of your kids. Take care of yourself and put a roof over your head, than do that. The fact that you want your hair six inches long, a year down the road when you’re the manager or CEO, you can wear your hair how you want. It’s important to understand that compromise doesn’t mean losing yourself or giving up. It means, you may have to take that punch for the team.
Jay Pharaoh gave a huge spoiler about who dies in the film. Watch his interview below with caution! 🙂
“Bad Hair” also stars Jay Pharaoh, Lena Waithe, Kelly Rowland, Laverne Cox, Chanté Adams, James Van Der Beek, Usher Raymond IV, and Vanessa Williams.
It arrives on Hulu October 23, just in time for Halloween.
Dr. Jennifer Satterfield-Siegel: It’s ‘Very Rewarding’ Being An African American NASCAR Team Owner
*“The more you know NASCAR. The more you love NASCAR,” declares Dr. Jennifer Satterfield-Siegel.
She was a recipient of the Industry Ambassador award at the recent virtual NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards.
Satterfield-Siegel says it is “super cool” to currently be the only African American woman NASCAR race team owner. Other words came to her mind when she describes how she’s accelerated into the fast lane with her husband, Max Siegel, who is the exclusive manager of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity Program.
“It’s very rewarding. I love the space that we are in with helping to develop drivers for the sport. I love that,” the pediatric dentist maintains adding there is a strong support system for her race team.
Growing up in Indianapolis, Indiana, home of the over a century old Indianapolis Motor Speedway, she has fond memories of going to the city’s iconic racetrack.
“Ever since I was a little girl my family we always went to the Indy 500 every year which was Memorial (Day) weekend. So, here in Indianapolis racing it’s just who we are,” the Circle City native said. “I never thought I wanted to be a race car driver. I wasn’t interested in it on that level when I was younger. Basically the exposure happened when my husband was the president of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and then I got the bug.”
No surprise Satterfield-Siegel would catch the racing fever when her husband ran the NASCAR-related organization started by seven-time Winston Cup champion Dale Earnhardt. Sadly, Earnhardt’s life came to a tragic end in 2001 when in the final lap of the Daytona 500 he crashed into a retaining wall and died instantly.
She and her husband co-own and manage Rev Racing. As NASCAR continues to diversify its landscape, Satterfield-Siegel looks for ways to increase opportunities for diverse drivers and pit crew members.
They strive for excellence with their race team she says, “It’s just we’ve done our best to get the best, that includes drivers and our head of athletic performance.”
Another team that makes Satterfield-Siegel and her husband even more wildly enthusiastic is their three children. They are all on the fast track to success.
“Our oldest is a junior at (The University of) Notre Dame and he’s a football player. Then we have a son who is in L.A. and he is at the L.A. Film Academy. Then we have a daughter who is a junior in high school and she is a scholar and an amazing volleyball player,” Satterfield-Siegel said.
She jokes that she never thought any of their children would pursue a career as racecar drivers because of the size of the stock cars used by NASCAR and other professional racing leagues.
“Our kids are big. There is no way they could fit in a (stock) car,” Satterfield-Siegel admitted with a laugh. “When they were little, they would go go-karting and that kind of thing. They’re interested in the business side, the development side, but I wouldn’t say they’re those athletes who are going to go around the track.”
She offers this advice to women who want to be winners, “Go for it. I think it’s so important that we dream and that we dream big. Women don’t allow people, places or things to define them or to stifle them.”
The NASCAR Drive for Diversity Awards are an annual event, this year held on October 8, and were established to honor the NASCAR industry’s diversity leaders as well as recognize top achievements.
By Tené Croom
Pastor Cal Keeps Love Alive on ‘Married at First Sight’ (EUR EXCLUSIVE!)
*For 11 seasons, “Married at First Sight” (MAFS) has been the ultimate experiment in matchmaking as couples who have never met – complete strangers – tie the knot.
If you are not familiar with the popular Lifetime series, people looking for love are matched by relationship experts (Dr. Pepper Schwartz, Dr. Viviana Coles, and Pastor Calvin Roberson-known as Pastor Cal) and agree to tie the knot before meeting their mates.
The show follows the couples for a few weeks as they experience their first meeting at their weddings, their honeymoons, meeting each other’s families, and other milestone events all the while being counseled by the experts. At the end of each season, the couples are given the chance to continue in their marriage or get a divorce.
While some may question the show’s premise, the EUR spoke to Pastor Cal recently and he said the series is genuine.
“My job on the show is to get these couples, put them together, and make sure they stay together,” said Pastor Cal. “My goal is to look at their differences, see where they’re compatible, counsel them and in some cases, threaten them, to make it work. All the experts, our focus, is simply making sure the couples stay together.”
As for a method in which the couples are matched, he added, “There isn’t a solid formula we apply to every couple. It has to be tweaked as we find out people’s peculiarities. It can be nerve-wracking but it’s rewarding in the end.”
Like many MAFS seasons, there are surprising revelations and this one, featuring couples from New Orleans, is no exception.
“Season 11 has brought us so many surprises,” Pastor Cal said. “Even in casting, one of the couples we thought would get along much quicker is one of the ones lagging behind. And one couple we thought would move slower to intimacy are moving ahead. And that’s with Miles and Karen being the slower and Woody and Amani being the faster of the two.”
He continued, “Also, by my own admission, I fall on the sword on this one, I was not expecting Bennett and Amelia to get along so well. I thought she would be put off more by his lack of profession. It was a big surprise to me.”
The next MAFS season will include Atlanta couples and after that the show heads to Houston, which is casting now. Pastor Cal told the EUR that the show adapts to the couples from each city.
“I believe that every city we film in brings a certain flavor and the participants from that city take on the flavor from that city,” Pastor Cal said. “New Orleans is laid-back, they party, and it’s a very fun city as opposed to a city like D.C. that is very political, buttoned up, and tight. But definitely we found that every city influences the participants. We definitely see different personalities coming out of each city.”
Speaking of Atlanta, Pastor Cal is the lead pastor at Progression church in the peach city. He and his wife Wendy have a marriage coaching organization that offers marriage and relationship conferences, boot camps, and seminars worldwide.
While COVID-19 may have slowed down the in-person events, that has not stopped people from contacting Pastor Cal for love connections, “Because of COVID, we’re online. I get more people through DM’s, email, etc. asking me to match them.”
And how does the church feel about the show?
“My church actually loves it.” Pastor Cal said. “They are so supportive and such an incredible group of people. They tell people about the show. Our church was actually founded on relationships, so it was an easy fit. Our church was founded on positive marriage and positive family.”
Look out for Pastor Cal’s book, “Marriage Ain’t for Punks,” slated to come out next year.
If you are interested in being on “Married at First Sight” and live in Houston, click here to apply.
For more information on MAFS’ current season, click here.
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