Black athletes are now among the hottest properties on Madison Avenue, successfully pitching everything from McDonald's cheeseburgers to Rolex watches to mainstream audiences. Of the 10 athletes ranked last year by Sports Marketing Letter as "most wanted" by commercial sponsors, five are black, four are white and one, golfer Tiger Woods, is of mixed racial heritage. The top three, who as a group will earn an estimated $88 million this year from endorsements, are all minorities: Michael Jordan, Woods and Shaquille O'Neal. That wasn't always the case. Former Dallas Cowboys running back Calvin Hill, who started his career in 1969, promoted the soft drink Dr Pepper. But few other deals came in for the African American football star. "I was fortunate that I was able to do some things with Dr Pepper. But I think black players lagged behind with endorsements," Hill said. Among those taking advantage of the new racial tolerance is Hill's son, NBA star Grant Hill. He earns an estimated $15 million a year from endorsements.
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