Allison Galer admits she is an over-preparer. But as the founder of Disrupt the Game sports agency, it’s a quality that has served her well. In 2012, 10 months after finishing her undergraduate studies at Brown, she launched her business, rostering just a single client. Nine years later, her client list, while still more limited than some of her competitors, features some of the biggest names in sports.
The WNBA’s Lisa Leslie, Chiney Ogwumike, Liz Cambage and the USWNT’s Crystal Dunn all work with Galer. Most recently, Disrupt the Game signed potential WNBA first-round pick Michaela Onyenwere, who is coming off a third-team All-America season at UCLA. Galer says her agency is a rarity in that it’s “built for women by women.”
“I think what we’re doing is pretty special and just doubling down on these women in a way that no one has really done before,” she says. “I work for them, with them, and everything in between, and ultimately that shows in where they’re going, and where I’m going with them.”
As the niece of Magic Johnson’s former agent, Lon Rosen, who currently is the Dodgers’ executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Galer has long been immersed in the industry. “But,” she says, “I think a lot of this business, especially with the pace at which the world is changing, is about being able to adjust and walk into situations that you might not have faced before.” In that regard, she’s looking to bring her agency’s moniker to life.
Before Thursday’s WNBA draft, Galer spoke to Sports Illustrated about life during the offseason, the state of player marketability and what the draft process is like.
The following conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
Sports Illustrated: In thinking about the continued increase in interest around the WNBA, has the pace of life in and around the league changed at all since you started your agency? And if so, how?
Allison Galer: Yes, I think for sure it has. First of all, I think over the course of the last nine years, I’ve grown a lot. But the business has grown a lot, too. The WNBA is in a much different place. Women’s sports are in a much different place than they were.
From a pace perspective, I think technology has forced everybody to speed up. If you don’t immediately respond to an email or a text or a call, there’s an expectation that you are going to respond as soon as possible. I think the good thing for me is that because of my age and because of coming into the business when I did, when I signed players and when I recruited players, I told them, “Hey, I’m here for you. I work for you and I’m accessible to you. However you want to reach me, you’re going to reach me and at whatever hour you’re going to reach me at.” I’m going to put my phone on silent while I sleep, but other than that, I am accessible nonstop to my clients, to help them navigate their careers. It’s reflective of how hard my clients have to work. It’s not easy to be a top-tier women’s athlete.
SI: Your agency is named Disrupt the Game, and you’ve previously said you wanted to change the narrative around women’s sports and help push clients in new directions. What’s been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in doing that, and how successful do you think you’ve been?
AG: I’m generally uncomfortable talking about myself, but I think that you could see it in practice with some of the deals that my clients have. I think we do do things differently. I think Chiney Ogwunmike is a very good example. She’s the first Black woman to host her own daily national radio show at ESPN. I reached out to ESPN when she first got drafted in 2014 and asked them to put her on a carwash, to put her out there.
Visibility is one of the biggest issues with women’s athletes. They need opportunity and they need visibility because oftentimes, more often than not, I always tell people that you give any of my clients one opportunity they’re going to kill it, and it’s going to lead to the next opportunity. That was all they have needed.
SI: Building on that, you put together a mini-documentary showcasing what WNBA free agency was like for Chelsea Gray. What do you think the outcome of that project was?
AG: So I sat with Chelsea and her and her wife, Tipesa, in January 2020, and we were brainstorming what our plan for that year was. Where are we going? What does Chelsea want to do? What are my ideas for her? That was the first free agency that Chelsea really was open to exploring a team outside of L.A., and so I asked them, “Hey, what if we pitch Uninterrupted on a mini-documentary following us through free agency?”
For me, getting Uninterrupted on board to do that for the first time in the WNBA was important. And then it was about just making sure Chelsea was going to be comfortable with a camera in her face when making some real decisions and really showing how she thinks and how she asks questions and how we go about really, really impactful decision-making. I think for me, as a representative, as an agent, it’s about pushing people into being the first, right? Like that had never been done before, but it doesn’t mean it’s restricted by the CBA, and I’m an agent who reads the CBA through and through.
SI: You mentioned the CBA. How did the new agreement signed in January 2020 impact your approach to the WNBA offseason when working with your clients?
AG: I don’t think what I do on a day-to-day is that different. But I think that there’s more opportunities for my clients, which is awesome. Since I started my business, most opportunities came from me reaching out. And I think what’s been happening over the course of the last eight to 10 months, is that all the groundwork that my clients and I have laid with relationships, with doing the right thing by the right people, has started to pay off and really produce opportunities.
I think my clients are starting to get the opportunities that they deserve, whether it’s Liz Cambage being the face of Wilson’s partnership with the WNBA and the new ball or Chiney being the face of Door Dash’s partnership with the WNBA or countless others. It’s just a matter of helping them navigate those situations and make sure that whatever my clients are doing is going to bring out what’s unique and authentic about them.
SI: What is the draft process like for you? How do you go about recruiting new draftees as clients?
AG: I think for me the recruiting process has changed over time. My first time recruiting draftees was 2013 into 2014, when I recruited Chelsea and Chiney. That was my first time just getting to know the process, getting to know coaches, getting to know parents, getting to know anyone and everyone that I could, and really just building genuine relationships. I think I’m genuine and I care, and that comes through with recruiting. I don't recruit everyone. I'm never going to be a master recruiter. I’m just not built for it. I’m not a big agency. I work for myself. When I recruit, I’m not over-promising and under-delivering; I’m realistic about what a player’s market looks like overseas, what the WNBA is looking like, what endorsements are looking like, what p.r., brand-building, anything and everything in between is like. I lay it out and I explain what the situation is looking like. I don’t say I’m going to be able to go get you all this stuff. I think I’m realistic and I think there are certain players that appreciate that and want that realism in their life, especially from a confidant who has their career in their hands.
SI: If you could make one change to the way players are marketed, what would it be?
AG: I think just building on what makes these women incredible. Just trying to have people really look at and try to respect and value these women as the badass athletes that they are. Honestly, just value women for who they are and what they bring, and the value that they ultimately have.