Jay-Z has built an empire in the worlds of music and fashion. Now the 43-year-old is set to try his hand at building the brands of athletes across the sports landscape. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports has teamed with Creative Artists Agency (CAA) — which represents everyone from Tom Cruise to Justin Timberlake to Derek Jeter — to form an alliance with the potential to become an immediate power player.
“Because of my love of sports, it was a natural progression to form a company where we can help top athletes in various sports the same way we have been helping artists in the music industry for years,” Jay-Z said.
After serving as the posterboy of the Nets’ move from New Jersey to his home borough of Brooklyn, Jay-Z’s time as an NBA “owner” — his shares totaled less than one percent of the franchise — is over.
“Our newest endeavor is committed to building the brands of professional athletes as we have done for some of today’s top music artists,” Jay-Z wrote on his website, LifeandTimes.com. “For Roc Nation Sports to function at its full potential, NBA rules stipulate that I relinquish my ownership in the Brooklyn Nets.”
Jay-Z came out swinging for the fences, signing Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano as Roc Nation Sports’ first client. Fitting, since Jay-Z boasts that he “made the Yankee hat more famous than a Yankee can.” But Cano is more than just the best player on Jay-Z’s favorite team. Cano is a pending free agent and a former client of Scott Boras — the most feared agent in baseball. If Jay-Z can play hardball and beat Boras at his own game, the rest of the industry should be on high alert.
Roc Nation Sports’ first NFL client is cha-cha dancing New York Giants wideout Victor Cruz, whose “prior relationship” with Jay-Z allowed the music mogul to side-step the NFL’s “runner rule,” which bans anyone who is not a certified agent to recruit players.
Recently, the NFLPA enacted what has been called the “Jay-Z Rule,” which states: “Whereas, the Regulations Governing Contract Advisors requires applicants to hold an undergraduate degree and post-graduate degree from an accredited college or university.” Apparently, the School of Hard Knocks is not an accredited university.
To counter that, Roc Nation Sports hired Kimberly Miale as its first agent certified by the NFLPA. Although she has never negotiated an active NFL contract, Miale is the de facto face of the franchise. Miale’s status had many NFL agents crying foul following Roc Nation Sports’ signing of New York Jets rookie quarterback Geno Smith, who infamously fired his agents after falling in the draft. Smith was photographed with Jay-Z before signing with Miale — but really Jay-Z.
Signing with Jay-Z has more perks than just the occasional photo-op, though. Roc Nation Sports’ first female athlete, WNBA rookie Skylar Diggins, was gifted a new Mercedes Benz (photo to right) as a surprise present at Notre Dame graduation, prompting Diggins to reference Jay-Z in a tweet: “99 Problems but a Benz Ain’t One.”
Another wave of hoopers is expected to join Jay-Z's expanding empire. Among the most likely candidates are three-time scoring champion and national ad campaign pitchman Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder and the current consensus No. 1 prospect in the 2013 NBA Draft, Kentucky big man Nerlens Noel.
Boras and other established sports agents can compete with buying their clients new cars. But it will be tough to compete with Jay-Z’s crossover appeal to a generation of athletes who grew up singing his songs.