Tulsa native hopes to break new ground as NFL agent 

Nicole Lynn in Downtown Oklahoma City, 12-22-15. - MARK HANCOCK
  • Mark Hancock
  • Nicole Lynn in Downtown Oklahoma City, 12-22-15.

Nicole Lynn knew exactly what she wanted to do when she entered the University of Oklahoma College of Law.

The Tulsa native was confident in achieving her goal, but when asked by peers what she wanted do with a law degree, Lynn compared her ambition to an aspiring rapper.

“I know it’s crazy, kind of like being a rapper,” Lynn responded, “but I am going to do it.”

Lynn never wavered from her desire to pursue sports agency as a career, despite reactions that her goal was idealistic.

While women now constitute more than one-third of the nation’s attorneys, very few take up sports law and represent National Football League (NFL) players.

While Lynn understood the game of football, she recognized an athlete’s need for a quality adviser, someone who helps manage money and steers players toward the right choices on and off the field.

As an undergraduate, she studied finance and accepted a position on Wall Street, striving to work with athletes. She was surprised to learn that financial advisors serve a small part in an athlete’s off-the-field team.

“It was a financial advisor for an NFL player that told me the change I wanted to make is through the agent,” Lynn said of the advice. “I immediately applied for law school.”

In 2015, Lynn completed the three-year juris doctor program in two and a half years. She took the bar exam in February and the NFL player agent exam in July. She passed both, the first step toward entering the highly competitive agent industry.

In the fall, she accepted a position with PlayersRep Sports Management, becoming the firm’s first female sports agent.

Come April, Lynn could be negotiating deals for rookie players during the NFL draft in Chicago. That’s exactly where she strives to be, but she was astonished to learn she might also become the first African-American woman to do so.

She was told she could become the first African-American female agent to have an NFL player on a team roster.

“The hard part is I haven’t had anyone to teach me what it is like as a woman and being black,” said Lynn, who is completing a judicial law clerk fellowship in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Oklahoma. “I have to overcome both hurdles.”

Prepping for players

As a student, Lynn interned as a summer associate at a Houston law firm. While she gained valuable experience, she knew she needed additional training specifically geared toward clients who are athletes.

She applied for the partner services internship program with the National Football League Players Association (NFLPA), the labor organization that represents professional football players and administers agent certification.

She interned for six months with the Washington, D.C.-based group and worked as a mediator between NFL sponsors and players during negotiations for use of the players’ likenesses in advertising.

“I was given the opportunity to see something other agents never see, whether it be additional funds for players to go back to school or medical insurance to help them after they are done playing,” Lynn said. “I also was able to see other jobs that support the player besides the agent.”

In addition to a key internship, Lynn sought a mentor. She found fellow OU law graduate Kelli Masters, the first woman to represent a first-round NFL draft pick.

Lynn said Masters’ guidance and advice was invaluable.

Like Lynn, Masters entered the industry after recognizing the important role legal and business advisors play in the lives of professional athletes.

After practicing litigation and nonprofit organization law in Oklahoma City, Masters founded Kelli Masters Management about a decade ago. She knows what it takes to make it as an agent.

“Many people dream of being an agent and working in football, but honestly, most people who go through the certification process with the NFLPA don’t really know what they are getting into,” Masters said. “Nicole does. She’s been preparing and asking questions for years. Because of her skillset and preparation, I believe she has what it takes to succeed in an industry where success is very rare.”

Days before last year’s NFL Draft, the player’s association recorded about 50 women registered as agents, compared to a total of 875 agents. Not all of those agents participated in the draft.

The path to becoming an agent is twofold, as the second test is signing a client that grabs the attention of a team.

As an NFLPA intern, Lynn was told about African-American women who passed the agent exam but hadn’t signed a player.

With confidence and a unique experience, Lynn believes she will stand apart from other agents. When draft time roles around, she stands ready to make deals with teams, talk about what comes after football and protect players’ wealth.

“When I go to a guy, I can say, ‘I passed the agent exam … but I also have an NFLPA background. I know how the benefits work,’” Lynn said. “It is really just finding that factor that pushes you apart. Talking to players as an agent is already hard enough, especially the first year.” 

Print Headline: Dual threat, On the verge of making history, Oklahoma’s Nicole Lynn is on track to represent National Football League players.

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