By Iman Sadri
February 23, 2021
Bardia Ghahremani is an Iranian-American sports agent and lawyer, successfully representing a slew of top athletes. Bardia resides in Orange County, California and represents mostly NFL players. Including prolific running back Giovani Bernard, safety Marcus Epps and punter Jamie Gillan, to name a few. Bardia is a modern day Persian Jerry Maguire, allocating his time and dedication to his book of athletes. Representing in contract negotiations, salary arbitrage and sponsorship from local and national brands. Bardia is a top agent at ISA Management. He is a graduate of UC Santa Barbara and ONU Law. To catch up with Bardia Ghahremani we conducted a Q+A with him in Irvine, California.
Iman Sadri : Thank you for taking the time to chat with The Persian Observer. Please describe early life childhood and education.
Bardia Ghahremani : Early childhood was not easy for me. My family and I moved to the United States (Irvine, Calif.) in 1979 when I was 4, and I didn’t learn how to speak English until I started school. My parents both had to work, so my first memories as a child were me and my sister (Rana, who’s two years older) sitting at home alone while both parents worked. We were latchkey kids and would come home from school and lock the door till one of our parents came home.
Growing up, education was always pressed upon my sister and I as a must. I remember when I graduated from UC Santa Barbara and was still in my cap and gown, my Dad looked at me and before he even congratulated me, he said, “Law school, right?” After UC Santa Barbara, I attended law school at Ohio Northern University in the small village of Ada, Ohio. Talk about a culture shock! It’s one of the top ABA Law Schools in the state of Ohio and has the highest BAR passing rate out of all the schools in the state. Moving there created one of the toughest and most eye-opening situations I had ever experienced, and yet it was one of the best decisions I had ever made. I could have gone to many local Southern California law schools, but something in my head told me to go away to the middle of nowhere Ohio and grind. That’s exactly what I did, and that led me to finishing law school in two and a half years and starting ISA in my law school apartment in my second year.
IS : What were the influences that led you in the direction of being a sports agent?
Bardia Ghahremani : I knew I wanted to be a sports agent when I was 19. I was playing college soccer and would have loved to have gone pro, but I knew that a 5-foot-9 goalkeeper had almost zero chance to make it. One day, I was at a LA Galaxy (MLS) game and ran into a gentleman who told me he was an entertainment lawyer and the agent for one of the Galaxy players. After speaking with him, I remember thinking to myself, “This is what I want to do for my career.” After that, everything I did was directed towards my goal of becoming an agent.
IS : Can you elaborate on your experiences in the sports agency field including some highlights and milestones you would like to share?
It’s a highlight every time one of my players is drafted or shows what they can do. I mean it: It’s a euphoric high. Every. Time. Whether that’s Giovani Bernard being a second-round pick by the Cincinnati Bengals and twice becoming one of the NFL’s higher-paid running backs on contract extensions, or “The Scottish Hammer” Jamie Gillan — a player so many teams told me needed a lot more work before he could punt in the NFL — not only signing with the Cleveland Browns but winning the job Day 1 as a rookie … I mean, how does it get better than that? Because it’s not about me, it’s about my clients, who I consider family. Everything I do is about what’s best for the family. As for one of my milestones, I feel that being in business for 18 years shows our work ethic and determination as a company. Having players drafted since 2013 and, hopefully, every year to come after is a milestone we try to grow.
IS : Who are some of the athletes that you represent?
Bardia Ghahremani : Some of my current clients include:
Giovani Bernard – Running Back – Cincinnati Bengals
Jamie Gillan – Punter – Cleveland Browns
Nathan Shepherd – Defensive Lineman – New York Jets
Marcus Epps – Safety – Philadelphia Eagles
William Stanback – Running Back – Las Vegas Raiders
Raymond Calais – Running Back – Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Cassh Maluia – Linebacker – New England Patriots
Josh Love – Quarterback – LA Rams
Tyler Hall – Cornerback – Atlanta Falcons
Leah Pruett – NHRA Top Fuel Driver
IS : Do you still represent athletes even after they retire? If yes, what kinds of services do you provide for them?
Bardia Ghahremani : Yes! I keep in touch with many of my former athletes. Depending on what their post playing career aspirations are we help their transition to life after sports. I am very happy to say that we have had many of our players successfully transition to real estate investors, law enforcement and coaches.
IS : What is the earliest you were able to establish a relationship with an up-and-coming athlete especially if they are in school?
Bardia Ghahremani : As an agent I cannot speak with potential football players until they are three years removed from their high school graduation. So unfortunately that makes the establishing of a relationship with a player difficult and at times it has to be done within a short period of time.
IS : How accurate is Jerry Maguire and some of the Hollywood representations of sports agents?
Bardia Ghahremani : I love that movie. It’s actually a very good depiction of the sports agency world. A lot of the factitious Hollywood shows like HBO’s Ballers and the movie Draft Day are also pretty true to the sports agent world and sports in general.
IS : I am a fan of Giovani Bernard – learned about him from watching Hard Knocks on HBO – How did you establish him as a client?
Bardia Ghahremani : Giovani is a great guy, and obviously an extremely talented player. I love him and his whole family. I actually met Gio when he was 15 and a sophomore in high school. I met him through his older brother, Yvenson Bernard, who was a client of mine entering the 2008 NFL Draft. Yvenson played running back at Oregon State and is still statically one of the top Pac-12 running backs to have ever played in the conference. Unfortunately, Yvenson had medical red flags that prevented him from playing in the NFL, but he did play a number of years in the Canadian Football League.
IS : What is the correlation with Law school and becoming a sports agent? Is it mandatory to go to law school to become a sports agent? If not what type of degree is necessary and if so what type of help does being a lawyer do with being a sports agent?
Bardia Ghahremani : There is no correlation in between going to law school and becoming a sports agent. You technically don’t even need a high school diploma to become a sports agent. However, if you want to work with professional leagues with unions, you need to have, at minimum, a college degree. The National Football League Players Association requires its agents to have a graduate degree to become a certified agent, so a law degree works well in that instance.
IS : What can be done to have the younger generation of Persian American’s to become sports agents?
Bardia Ghahremani : Whenever I speak to young people in general about becoming sports agents, I always tell them you have to love the sport or love sports in general. You can’t be shy of hard work, because the industry is not always glamorous. It’s hard work. It’s a grind. Persian-Americans have a great opportunity, because we live in a country that allows us to do whatever we want. We just have to take the initiative and put the work behind it.
IS : How have contracts with sports agents and athletes changed in the last 20 years and how do you forecast the future market?
The money has exponentially increased. For the most part, the sports industry is recession-proof and depression-proof — just look at some of the monster NFL contracts that have gotten done in the face of a multibillion-dollar revenue shortfall caused by a global pandemic. People love sports, and as long as there’s big money behind sports, you will have agents being a major part in assisting the clients maximize the earning potential.
IS : Imagine you are 100 years old and reading your Wikipedia profile – what other career and life milestones would you like to see on there?
Bardia Ghahremani : I just want to look back and have my history and body of work reflect how much I’ve cared and truly appreciated the opportunity to help young athletes further their lives long after their playing career is over. Because the love and passion I have for the business, along with pursuit to be the best at what I do, are really the driving forces behind everything.
Follow Bardia Ghahremani on Social Media @AgentBardia