This sports agent has a message for cancer survivors
Overcomer Tiffany Porter lives a well-balanced life and is encouraging others
While many sports agents are busy at the 2017 draft, there is one standing out in the crowd. As a woman in a male-dominated world, Tiffany Porter is proving that she can stand strong and give her clients the best representation possible.
For Porter, becoming a sports agent was a natural progression to her multifaceted career. The Hampton University alum has built her credentials over the years as a criminal defense attorney and is managing partner of Porter & Whitner Law Group LLC in Atlanta.
Porter spends many of her days fighting for citizens in the criminal justice system while inspiring single mothers, cancer survivors and families. She’s taken the challenges of her life and turned them into positives. There are few challenges that Porter has not conquered.
As a certified NFL agent, Porter negotiates contracts, but more importantly she strives to protect her clients’ future beyond their playing days. Earning her law degree from Emory University, she is no stranger to beating the odds in the courtroom or in her personal life. She also earned her MBA from Georgia State University.
As a child, she and her younger siblings experienced watching their mother go in and out of federal prison. She was reared by her grandmother and great-grandmother.
Porter was born in Ohio and grew up in Belleville, New Jersey. She quickly became a mother figure for her younger siblings and had to face the responsibility of looking after their best interests. Now she’s a wife and a mother of four children, ages 10, 12, 15 and 18.
A member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc., Porter went through the toughest battle of her life when she was diagnosed with breast cancer at the age of 29.
“It was caught very early, and I opted to take some radical measures,” Porter explained. “I’m very candid about my procedure and everything. I opted to have a double mastectomy, and for me it’s all about my quality of life. I wanted to be here for my children. That was very important for me.”
But life for Porter, 38, kept going. She was a professional cheerleader for the semipro Atlanta Chiefs football team. She began practicing in 2005 and began her own practice in 2009.
Porter spoke with The Undefeated about her journey.
What made you switch your focus to sports?
Well, I won’t say that I necessarily switched to sports. Sports had always been an endgame for me. I was a track and field athlete, and I always wanted to be in the sports arena in some way, form and fashion. I had clients who played in the NFL, played in the NBA, where I handled just their legal business, and I began to see that a lot of them were broke and didn’t have any kind of goals or aspirations after life after football or basketball, and I was like, ‘Well how is your representation? How did that happen? What did your representation look like while you were playing?’ And a lot of them just said, ‘Hey, I had an agent, I had this person, that person that was there while I was playing, but life after can’t even get a person to pick up the phone for me.’
So for me I was like, ‘You know what, I really want to go in and help these guys or these women to really make a brand and to build everything they need to sustain them after their professional careers,’ their professional athletic careers, that is. Because I saw that there was a lack in that, and to help them keep their money and to be able to take care of their families once they were done. So I was like, ‘You know, look, I’m gonna go into this. I have the legal background and the negotiation side with dealing with contracts. Now I can help them navigate into what is it that they want to do. What kinda businesses do they want? What are their aspirations afterward?’ That’s what really made me want to start the sports agency: to really, really help these athletes and to help them envision more than just playing on the field.
How many clients do you have now?
Right now I have one client that is on his way into the NFL. I did have some previous clients; they’re no longer playing right now. You know, it can be an in-and-out thing with the NFL, but I have one client right now who is making his way in, and we’re just waiting for the draft and working minicamp to begin to see where his journey’s going to take him. His name is Kevin Snead. He was attending Carson-Newman, and that’s in Tennessee.
Being a female in a very especially white-male-dominated role, how do you keep your balance?
Well, to keep my balance in this industry you really have to command respect — demand it, rather. The way that I work, being a woman with all these men that are in the industry in the NFL side, all of the GMs and scouts, it’s all men. And then you have all of the agents, most of them are men, so when you come in, you have to really as a woman be able to stand out and make sure that you know your stuff. You have to make sure coming in that you know what your worth is and that you know what is expected. For me, a lot of times I’m mistaken as an aunt or a girlfriend or, ‘Who are you, a family member?’ But for me, I’m like, ‘No, I’m their agent, and this is what we bring to the table.’ I have been at the table and negotiating contracts with the Houston Texans. I had a player that played with the Houston Texans, and the questions I get are not like men would get. You know, I do get, ‘Well, how did you meet him and how did this happen?’ And the how is, how did the black woman get in here and get to this point? But once they see that I’m about business and that I know the game and I know about from a contractual standpoint as to what the players should get, they give me the respect.
I just make sure that at all times I never allow lines to be crossed or blurred as far as being a woman, because there are a lot of men, so they’re going to try you and see what angle they can come at. But I let them know straight up, I am strictly here for business, I am married and as nothing else. It may come out sometimes as cold, but I want people to know me for what I do for the players, not necessarily being, ‘Oh, she’s a cute woman’ or ‘She’s got this and that going on.’ I don’t want that. As far as the players, a lot of the new players coming in, especially African-American males, most of them are raised by African-American single females, and when they see me and meet me and understand what I have to bring to the table, they fall in love with me. My main thing is to connect with their families as well as connect with the players and let them know that I’m there to protect their interest. So when they see someone that looks familiar, looks like Mom, at times that can be an advantage as well.
Is it hard to gain the trust of the family members involved?
It is. But for me, my credentials speak for themselves. A lot of times when I come in they’re like, ‘Well, you’re an attorney as well?’ ‘Yes.’ That establishes a lot of trust right there. They believe, ‘OK, you’re an agent as well an attorney, so we know that you have the legal training to do this.’ Now they want to just understand who the person is, and will you protect my child just like you would protect your own. And they want to know that and see that.
For me when I am being interviewed, I’m also interviewing them, the family as well as the player, ’cause I want to be on the same page and let them know that it’s not all about just the money, money, money. We need to build the brand, and how does that look? And where do we go from here? And how do we create a legacy for the player? And so a lot of agents do not come with that. I tried to bring something different to the table so that we can talk about what needs to happen on the field so that they can prepare for life off the field.
What inspired you to build your own brand?
For me, I would say coming from very humble beginnings I’ve always wanted to have my own business and be a role model for other young ladies. Because I was pretty much raised by my great-grandmother, and my grandmother. My mother was in and out of prison, and my father was killed when I was really young. So I did not grow up in the best of circumstances, but I made the best of what I had. I knew that education was going to be my way out. And with education I knew that I could pretty much do whatever I wanted to do. For me, I wanted to build a brand where I could be that role model for women of all color, but for women who have come out of some of the same struggles that I had. At one point I was a single parent with my four children. I had breast cancer, and how do you come out of all those things and make it work? So that’s for me, building my brand is showing others that through all of this adversity, that you can overcome and do whatever it is that you want to do in life.
Can you recall a memory as a child that just kept you grounded?
She [mother] first went to prison when I was about 6 years old, then went a few times after that, but with my great-grandmother and my grandmother — really my great-grandmother — very early on when I struggled with my mother not being there she was always telling me, ‘You can be anything you want to be. You don’t have to go this route.’ And she was just always very supportive of me. So at 7, I decided, you know what, I want to be on the other side, and yes, at 7 years old I was thinking about this and I was like, ‘I want to be a lawyer. I want to be a lawyer, and I want to help people.’ I looked at it as, well, I want to help people like my mother to not be in prison. I didn’t really understand the full picture of how the justice system worked at the time, but that just catapulted me into what I wanted to do. My great-grandmother was just always behind me and reminding me of: ‘Hey, remember you know you said you want to be a lawyer? This is what you want to do, and this is what you need to do to get there.’
What’s been the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
Best piece of advice I received was to stay true to myself, to always never compromise my integrity. If I know that something is wrong, or if it’s something that I don’t believe in, to not be involved in it. I can say that has really helped me in just staying grounded, because in the sports and entertainment industry you really can get lost and get caught up. So for me my morals and my standards and where I place myself have sometimes caused me not be able to get the client, but it’s not about that at the end. My integrity is what I stand on and what people look at in the end. So that was the best piece of advice that I received is to always stay true to myself.
What’s the best piece of advice you give to young women?
So my best piece of advice to young women is to set your goals and to stay focused on what it is that you want to do in life, and that nothing is impossible — with the will and determination you can do anything. I believe sometimes young women get caught up into what others are doing, or they may be discouraged because they may have hit some obstacles. I’m always encouraging young women to stay the course and to stay focused on what it is that they want to do in life and to never allow anyone else to thwart their dreams or to allow anyone or anything to come before their dreams.
What’s the best piece of advice you give to your players?
My advice to athletes, especially those just beginning, is to never lose your integrity, and loyalty is a must. You want to have people that are in your corner who are going to be loyal to you, as well as you loyal to them. Because in the end, when all of the glitz and glamour are gone, you need those people in your corner who are going to continue to help you and to support you. The No. 1 thing I believe the athlete should always think about is, ‘How am I going to build a legacy for myself and my family?’ That should always be No. 1, and that can really guide them throughout their professional athletic careers as to also into what they’re going to do after.
What’s the advice you give to single parents?
My advice to single mothers is to never stop. Never stop. Don’t allow your current situation to determine your future. It’s hard, but you use your children as your motivation. Use them to motivate you to do more. And never give up. I know a lot of times when I was a single parent I just wanted to give up and throw in the towel because it was so hard and frustrating. But I always tell my single moms it gets better. No one would have been able to tell me with four children and law school and breast cancer that I would be where I’m at today. I didn’t see that because it was so far away. I always encourage my moms to just stay the course and to never give up.
What’s the best piece of advice you give to other cancer survivors?
And lastly, for breast cancer survivors, my advice would be to stay strong and understand that it’s a process. It’s not the end of the road. Your life is not over; there is life after breast cancer, and it’s what you make of it. And you have to keep a positive attitude during that journey so that your health could be at its best. I believe if you’re sitting around crying and depressed, you can physically make yourself sick or more sick than you are. And really just having a strong … I would say my strong faith in God really helped me through that entire process. So you always have to look to a higher power when going through that kind of trial because it really takes a lot out of you. But just staying strong and knowing that there is life after.
Who’s your support system now, other than your husband?
My family. Pretty much my entire family is in Georgia. My grandmother is still here, and she helps me with the children. I have my brother and my sisters. We all pretty much help each other. But they’re my main support system. My family and of course a few of my close friends.
Do you have any future plans for you, the practice, or your clients?
My future plans are, I plan to write a book. This book will be to inspire other women as well as people who have gone through some of the experiences that I’ve gone through to show them how to navigate just through life, and how you can overcome obstacles. I plan on also doing more motivational speaking where I’m encouraging others who want to come into the business of sports or come into the business of entertainment and show them how that looks. As far as the brand, just going to continue building the agency. We will begin our basketball division this year, so I’m really excited about that. So we will be representing NBA athletes and just continuing expanding my brand as a whole, and being that next big sports agent.