More than 165 million Americans, about 70 percent of the population, claim they follow sports. Each year, they pack stadiums and tune in to networks to watch their favorite teams. With a plethora of college teams and professional clubs from the five major sports, it’s no surprise Dallas is considered one of the best sports cities in the country. The games are an integral part of the sports industry, but they’re just a small part of the booming business. Professional athletes, sports marketers, agents and philanthropists from our neighborhood share what it’s really like to work in the industry worth $700 billion globally.

There’s no doubt Lakewood neighbor Kern Egan pulls some weight in the sports industry. He’s president of Americas at Lagardère Plus and works on behalf of brands like Citi, MetLife, Bridgestone, HEB and Metro by T-Mobile. He’s also using that influence to leverage the power of sports to make the community a better place. In 2013, Egan co-founded the Heart of Dallas Bowl, now the First Responder Bowl, to keep a bowl game in the historic Cotton Bowl Stadium and raise money for Dallas charities. He sold the bowl to ESPN the next year and used the annual funding to form the Heart of Dallas Young Professionals, which rebranded to Dallas Influencers in Sports and Entertainment in July 2018. The organization has more than 400 members who have helped more than 1,000 individuals and 34 nonprofits like Café Momentum and The Dirk Nowitzki Foundation. The goal is to raise more than $1 million for charities.

On brands, sports and political issues: Do you stand for something? With any good partnership, your values and ambitions should align. You have to decide if that partnership reinforces what you stand for or exposes what you don’t. We ask our clients to answer those questions. It will become evident which partnerships make the most sense and how to navigate through controversy.

What got him interested in this field: Sports was a big passion of mine from an early age. It bled into the career aspect, and it was a focus of mine from a pretty young age to work in the business. I read an article in Sports Illustrated when I was in high school about a football agent, and I was sure that’s what I wanted to do. It was a long and winding road, but I’m happy to be in this position. I work on the sponsor side rather than with athletes or talent directly.

Why he created DISE: I moved here from Chicago. I didn’t know anybody and needed a job. People who had no reason were so helpful to me. I wanted to give back and corral the spirit so people could help each other even more. I had a heart for creating a young-professionals group in the industry. We’ve expanded membership and partnerships. We run professional events and programming throughout the year. We honor a different athlete every year for their charitable contributions. We’ve given $600,000 to charity in the first four years.

Favorite sports memory: I’ve been to every Super Bowl since 2006. I got to sit in the royal box with the commissioner and watch the first NFL game outside the U.S. Augusta is a pretty special experience. But being in high school and going to a Chicago Bulls game and meeting Michael Jordan is a pretty hard experience to top. My dad is a printer, and one of his clients was the halftime act for the Bulls. He got us courtside seats. The locker rooms at the old stadium were under the court, and we were able to go down there before the game. The Bulls were there waiting to walk up the stairs. Being too naive to know any better, I shook (Jordan’s) hand.

Hometown: Cary, Illinois

Job title: President, Americas at Lagardère Plus

Alma mater: Indiana University

Sports hero: Walter Payton

Click to sign up for the Advocate's weekly news digest and be the first to know what’s happening in Lakewood/East Dallas.