Theresa Therilu Treads Where Few Other Black Women Do: On The Grid Iron As A NFL Agent
What does a 5-foot 4-inch, 130-pound, stiletto-heeled woman dressed in pink possibly know about professional football. Well, if you’re Theresa Therilu, a lot.
Therilu is a Harvard-educated attorney, NFL agent and the founder of TGT Sports & Marketing. TGT Sports specializes in marketing and landing endorsement deals for professional athletes and artists.
According to Therilu, she’s spent “more time watching the sport than most people will in their lifetimes.”
Therilu is one of few African-American in the sports arena. “There’s a serious dearth of women, especially women of color, on the business side of the NFL,” she writes in The Grio. “Yes, the league targets female fans through marketing of ‘Just for Her’ NFL gear and the ‘Lingerie Football League.’ But if you ask me, these efforts serve only to titillate the male football-fan population. Moreover, they display the league’s unwillingness to send a message that female fans can become any more than passive spectators of the sport, decked out in fitted jerseys designed to cling to their curves as much as to show their pride.”
The result of the sport’s inbred sexism is a lack of women with careers within the NFL. According to Therilu, the inequality gap in the NFL is glaring, even down to cheerleaders being paid less than male mascots.
This, of course, makes Therilu’s job even harder. Sexism is always present. When she signed one client, a potential first-round draft pick, he said to her, “I’m going to sleep with you one day.”
She handed him the agreement, and replied, “Not in a million years.” The lost business was worth it. “I walked away from a coveted client and kept my dignity,” she says.
Then there are players who are unsure of her abilities just because she is a woman. Antwan Barnes, now a linebacker for the New York Jets, said to her, “You really believe that you can be my agent. Get me into the NFL? I mean, you never played. You’re a girl.”
Therilu even reveals her love life has suffered because of the field she is in. “It hasn’t always made for smooth relationships. And to be completely honest, it takes a lot of composure on my end to keep professional boundaries with a male athlete who has a body to die for,” she says.
Still Therilu says she loves her work. “My career as an agent is about so much more than just prancing through the locker room in heels. I’ve given up on expecting that everyone will understand that, but I’ll never surrender my love for the game,” she concludes.