Last year saw a seismic shift within the sports agency world when more than half of the players selected in the first round of the National Football League draft were being represented by Black agents. This was the first time that has happened. Another major accomplishment: a Black sports agent rose to a very prominent position within the number-one sports and entertainment agency in the world, Creative Artists Agency (CAA). BLACK ENTERPRISE spoke with that bright shining star, Tory Dandy, about what makes a successful sports agent and how important it is to see more Black sports agents in the future.
BE: You’ve recently been promoted to co-head and managing partner at CAA while representing a number of football clients. What does your new role entail and how important is this new position to you?
Dandy: In my new role, I oversee and manage over $4 billion worth of football playing contracts. Being promoted to co-head and managing partner of football for the number-one sports and entertainment agency in the world, it was a historic move for the industry.
When I was initially promoted, I thought of the quote, “If you can’t see it, you can’t be it.” It gives hope to the people who look like me and want to be an executive at the highest level. It shows the young Black youth from a small town or big city or the HBCU students that anything is possible as long as you work hard for it.
What are the most important characteristics and/or aspects in order for one to be a successful sports agent? Is schooling as important or can you learn on the job?
While education is vital, real-life experience is most important. It is almost impossible to be merit–based successful with just course work. There is no alternative for hands-on experience when dealing with players and navigating the industry. Whether you are working with owners and general managers or recruiting talent and their families, the best way to learn is to be in the field getting that real-life experience. When dealing with these families or business executives, it is important to have high character, morals, and integrity–these are things that cannot be taught.
Earlier this year, for the first time in National Football League history, more than half of the players selected in the first round of the draft were represented by Black agents. How important was that milestone and do you think that that number will increase? Will Black agents have as much clout as non-Black ones?
This milestone is significant and not talked about enough. I do believe that number will increase, especially as more African-American agents continue to grow and elevate in their careers. We are showing the next generation of agents that it is possible; it shows the next generation athlete that they can have a successful agent that looks like them. I do not believe that there is “clout” surrounding Black agents. I believe that there is real talent there, and it is finally showing up where it needs to.
What has been your most impactful accomplishment as an agent?
My most impactful accomplishment as an agent is possessing the ability and the bandwidth to be a part of each one of my clients’ journey, on and off the field. I am present, both in body and mind, for every step of the way: draft process, careers, post-career, and personal growth. I will always say that my biggest accomplishment is not how big a contract I can negotiate for my client (which is very important), but how I show up for my client.
What advice and/or suggestion would you give a young Black prospective agent who wants to follow in your footsteps?
No job is too small in this industry. I started in this business 17 years ago as an intern. In that space, I developed genuine relationships that I, until this day, value, cherish, and maintain. You have to know the business; not just the business internally wherever you are, but all the business externally, as well. A very important, and likely the most important, part of this journey is having a great mentor to learn from and grow with. My mentor was Eugene Parker, the most successful Black NFL agent of all-time. He helped mold me into who I am today.