Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter is best known as the rapper from Marcy Projects who sold a lot of records then made it big as a music industry executive, became the owner of a clothing line, married the biggest pop star in the world, bought a piece of the NBA’s New Jersey Nets and was instrumental in moving the team to his home-borough of Brooklyn.
But now with his recent partnership with Hollywood heavy-hitter, Creative Artist Agency, Jay-Z launched a sports management firm with the hopes of attracting young, hip superstars that he will be able to market and help launch other ventures. Feel free to add sports agent to his list of titles even though he is not actually certified…yet.
None of this should be new. By now, most people know that Roc Nation made the announcement along with the signing of Yankees superstar, Robinson Cano, back in April and will be instrumental in attracting talent while CAA will handle contract negotiations and other legal business. Jay-Z and them will market the athletes and CAA will tell them when it’s time to re-sign with a team or test the free agent waters. Each company is skilled and has a long track record in the role they are about to play.
Where does the time go? It was 15 years ago that another major rap star launched a sports management firm. Back in 1998, Master P’s No Limit Sports set out on the same mission that Roc Nation is currently on – to sign top athletes, negotiate their contracts and market them in the superior fashion that they were marketing rappers. In those days, Master P had sold a lot of records, started his own record label, independently made a few movies and landed in the 10th spot on Forbes' 1998 list of America’s 40 highest paid entertainers with an estimated income of $56.5 million. So, when he started No Limit Sports, the company was able to land big names like Ron Mercer and Derek Anderson, who both starred at Kentucky before entering the NBA; but, No Limit’s most notable signing was University of Texas running back Ricky Williams.
The Williams signing was huge for No Limit. He had finished his career at Texas as the National Collegiate Athletic Association all-time rushing leader with 6,279 yards. In all, he set 20 NCAA records, including rushing touchdowns, total touchdowns and points scored.
Enter Leland Hardy. Hardy is the lawyer that Percy “Master P” Miller hired to negotiate contracts and handle the legal end of their clients’ careers. Hardy had an MBA from Wharton and at the time was the financial advisor for Venus and Serena Williams; but, he was inexperienced in negotiating big time sports contracts so, starting off with Ricky Williams probably wasn’t a good idea.
Mercer and Anderson were in the NBA, so their contracts were simple. The NBA is structured in such a way that there isn’t really that much room to play during negotiations and everyone walks away happy. However, the NFL is a completely different story. For one, a player’s contract is not guaranteed so, an agent always tries to get as much money as possible up front and then come up with ways for their client to make even more money on the back end. Hardy, for some reason, negotiated a contract that was back loaded and incentive-laden. Williams contract, acknowledged by many as the worst contract ever for a player, only called for him to make the league-minimum salary, but he could make lots of money if he reached certain goals. The problem was that many of the goals (rushing for an average of 4.5 yards or better, 12 or more rushing touchdowns, 12 or more receiving touchdowns, scoring 76 points, gaining 1,601 yards in total offense) were unattainable. He would’ve had to have a repeat of his college career in order to make any real money.
Needless to say, after a couple of injuries and generally not playing well, Ricky failed to reach nearly every incentive. In his rookie season, he only made $3.8 million. In contrast, Edgerrin James, who was selected one pick before him, earned $14.8 million as a rookie.
Although No Limit had done so well marketing their artists, their athletes weren’t really showing up anywhere other than on the court or field and in news reports about No Limit. By 2000, Williams fired No Limit and the other athletes followed soon after. The company has since folded.
When Miller launched the sports company, No Limit was popping in the streets, but their big mistake was hiring an inexperienced lawyer to negotiate contracts.
This shouldn’t happen with Shawn Carter’s venture. First and foremost, partnering with CAA immediately gives the company credibility at the negotiating table. For 38 years, CAA has been a Hollywood power broker and although they only began managing athletes in 2006, they currently represent more than 800 athletes including stars like Ryan Howard and Carmelo Anthony. Meanwhile, Roc Nation manages many music artists including Rihanna, J. Cole, Santigold and many others. Since signing Cano, Roc Nation Sports has added Notre Dame star and WNBA rookie, Skylar Diggans, New York Giants receiver, Victor Cruz and most controversially, Geno Smith.
Everyone expects Jay-Z to help attract signees, CAA to handle their contracts and Roc Nation to market them and as long as everyone stays in their lane, Roc Nation Sports should be ‘bout it, ‘bout it.