A Black Eye for Black Advisers to Athletes

In the current Sports Illustrated, Farrell Evans tells the tale of several black athletes being ripped off by unscrupulous black agents and advisers.

...Crockett now believes that Wright, who is also black, exploited that to get their trust and ultimately their money. "Race was a big part of IMA's image," says Crockett. "Kirk would say his company had to be aboveboard because as a successful black company, people were watching them." Ivan Thornton, a black New York investment adviser for pro athletes and entertainers, says, "That [Wright] was a black man who showed outstanding potential had everything to do with his illusion of success."

The irate IMA investors aren't the only athletes to get burned by advisers who stress racial solidarity in the way Don King did when he cozied up to Mike Tyson. In November, Calvin Darden Jr., a 31-year-old stockbroker who had bilked former NBA star Latrell Sprewell out of $300,000, among other crimes, was sentenced to four to 12 years for grand larceny and scheming to defraud. In 2002 former agent William (Tank) Black received a five-year sentence for fraud after swindling NFL players Fred Taylor and Ike Hilliard and others out of more than $11 million. Sometimes the adviser's incompetence, rather than criminal intent, is the client's undoing. In 1999, hip-hop magnate Master P's No Limit Sports Agency negotiated an eight-year deal for Ricky Williams laden with incentives so difficult to reach that other teams actually called the Saints to congratulate them on getting the running back so cheaply.

Thornton says that sometimes when players are getting to know potential advisers, bling trumps substance. One prospective client decided not to hire Thornton after he learned the consultant drove a Nissan Sentra. "A man is a reflection of what he drives," the celebrity said. (Wright reportedly had a Bentley, a Jaguar, an Aston Martin and a Lamborghini.)

But this brand of black-on-black crime has victims beyond the ripped-off athletes. The IMA case and others have made life even more difficult for honest black investment advisers and agents struggling for a foothold in the billion-dollar business of servicing pro athletes. "This hurts the black firms trying to do the right thing, especially when there aren't that many of us to choose from," says Thornton, who has black and white clients. "These events leave the impression that a lot of us aren't using good business practices."

Financial advisor to star athletes Bret Bearup cares a lot about these things and reads TrueHoop. Bret, care to weigh in?