Shawn Corey Carter has been known as one of the most popular rappers of the 21st century, but now we are seeing him as a man of many talents. He has expanded his repertoire and is not only a rapper/hip-hop artist, but a savvy entrepreneur. In 2008, he founded Roc Nation, LLC, an American entertainment company which represents entertainers. In 2013 however, Jay-Z ventured his business into the sports world, forming Roc Nation Sports, a division of the Roc Nation company. He formed it alongside Creative Artists Agency, a talent agency in Los Angeles with a great reputation. Of course, Jay-Z was familiar with sports going in, as he is a former co-owner of his hometown Brooklyn Nets, having sold his shares to Jason Kidd recently.
Roc Nation Sports describes itself as a full service sports-management company. In just about a year, the division has assembled quite the group of athletes. Jay-Z’s first splash was signing former Yankees All-Star 2nd baseman Robinson Canó, who signed with the Seattle Mariners this offseason for a whopping 10-year, $240 million contract.
Jay-Z didn’t stop there, though. He added Giants Pro Bowl receiver Victor Cruz, who also signed a lucrative extension with New York for five years at $45 million. WNBA prospect Skylar Diggins came aboard as well as New York Jets quarterback Geno Smith who was drafted in the second round of the NFL draft last year. He added more big names, including CC Sabathia of the Yankees and Kevin Durant, who is having an MVP-calibre season in the NBA with the Oklahoma City Thunder.
This past week, Jay-Z made another big splash, signing Pro Bowl defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions. Suh is in line for a massive contract extension and clearly Jay-Z’s representatives convinced Suh he would land a monster deal by signing with Roc Nation. Suh’s rookie contract expires after the 2015 season and the Lions have to extend him, as Suh’s current contract would carry a massive cap hit of $22 million for the 2014 season. Detroit has no choice but to extend him and Jay-Z has a proven track record in a short amount of time as a sports agent. It was revealed in June that he is a certified sports agent for NBA and MLB players. He is not yet a certified agent for the NFLPA, so he cannot yet handle on-field negotiations for Suh. If negotiations between Suh and the Lions were to take place today, it would be handled by representatives from Jay-Z’s partners from Creative Artists Agency.
The Lions have cap problems, as illustrated by them cutting veterans Nate Burleson and Louis Delmas which saved them $11 million in cap room. Suh’s massive 2010 rookie deal of five years at $68 million already makes him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive tackle. He’ll likely retain that title with his new deal. The leverage truly lies completely with Suh. Having just fired a head coach, Lions GM Martin Mayhew surely is on thin ice in Detroit. In order to build the Lions into a consistent contender, Suh is a franchise cornerstone they must keep. At 27 years old, well into his prime, Suh will receive a massive contract, cementing Jay-Z as a savvy, opportunistic representative.
More athletes will inevitably sign with Jay-Z and Roc Nation Sports. If you were a professional athlete, would you not take a chance on a superstar rapper with a proven track record? Every client Jay-Z has signed has gone on to receive a great contract, and with salaries increasing and the importance of strong representation higher than ever for athletes, they’ll look for ways to maximize their revenue. Perhaps a big challenge for Jay-Z will be signing younger stars, or draft prospects. Guys like Canó, Sabathia, Durant and Cruz is one thing. They’re all proven stars. What will be very interesting is to see how he’ll fare with all the 2014 sports draft prospects.
Now Jay-Z has a year under his belt as a sports representative. He has built a name for himself and his company in the sports world, so it will be interesting to see how many young athletes will turn to him to land their first professional contracts. Coming first will be the NFL Draft in May. This year’s class is very deep with talent and plenty of big names looking for great representation. With rookie wage scales now in effect in the NFL, it would be a great opportunity for Roc Nation to see what they could do with a top pick. Top QB prospect Teddy Bridgewater has already signed with NFLPA Contract Advisor Kennard McGuire after some speculation that Jay-Z was in the running to represent him. Johnny Manziel recently signed with Select Sports Group and Blake Bortles signed with Rep1 agency. The top crop of quarterbacks have all elected to go with more experienced sports agents. Roc Nation missed out on Jadeveon Clowney, the draft’s top prospect, as the star defensive end from South Carolina chose Bus Cook and BC Sports over Roc Nation. Signing Clowney would’ve been a major milestone for Jay-Z’s group as many future top picks likely would have followed suit in coming years.
There will still be plenty of opportunities for Roc Nation though, as the 2014 NBA draft will be the deepest its been since 2003. Perhaps it will be easier for Jay-Z to add athletes to Roc Nation in basketball due to his past as a part-owner and the fact that he’s certified in the NBA as an agent. Joel Embiid and Jabari Parker are possibilities. Andrew Wiggins has been linked with agent Rich Paul of LRMR Marketing, who represents Lebron James.
Jay-Z and Roc Nation will probably have to keep building their resume with more established stars before prospects line up to sign with them. You can understand why young athletes would want someone with a ton of experience representing them, even if Jay-Z has the big name and presence along with his company. However, in only one year of existence, Roc Nation has accomplished a lot and have gotten some big names under their representation. We’ll likely be hearing more and more about them as time passes. More athletes will sign if superstars like Sabathia, Canó, Cruz and Suh all break the bank and put in a good word to younger athletes. Roc Nation has probably just scratched the surface of what they’ll be doing for a long time.
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