The decision of Jay-Z to launch a sports agency that services football, basketball, and baseball players has created plenty of waves. Some of that flows naturally from the decision of an extremely rich and influential entertainer branching out in a very different way. Some of it comes from the obvious attraction that certain players will have to working with Jay-Z.
And some of it flows from the controversy the effort has created, whether it’s the NFLPA investigating a potential violation of the rule against the use of “runners” by recruiting Jets quarterback Geno Smith to sign with NFLPA-certified agent Kim Miale or going scoreboard on baseball agent Scott Boras in the lyrics of one of Jay-Z’s new songs.
Jay-Z added more waves this week by calling himself a “problem” for other agents in an interview with Power 105.1 in New York.
“Those guys have been sitting around just doing the typical things,” Jay-Z said, via Forbes.com. “Knock on the same doors. They go to Nike, they do the contract and then they sit back. They don’t do anything else. So they’ve been sitting around for 20-30 years just not doing anything.
“So me coming, that’s a problem for them. Cause now they have to go to work, now they have to wake up, now they have to do things. So they don’t want me around because now they have to do something for these athletes. The bigger goal is for all artists to get their just due. Not to get half-ass agents or people who rob them or people who don’t care about their finances. They’re just taking whatever is going to get them a check.”
While there are indeed plenty of “half-ass agents” and crooks who would rob their clients, Jay-Z paints with far too broad a brush, assuming that all agents are doing nothing to maximize their clients’ earnings, and that his arrival to the industry will somehow get them to collectively roll up their sleeves and start grinding.
On that point, he’s specifically referring to the area where he intends to add the most value — marketing dollars that can be earned off the field.
The notion that other agents aren’t doing anything other than shoe/apparel deals overlooks the reality that much greater commission percentages can be earned via marketing deals than through (at least in the NFL) player contracts. So there’s a real incentive for agents to work those deals.
Having Jay-Z in the industry won’t necessarily make them work harder to make more marketing dollars for their clients. Instead, it will make them harder to persuade their clients that Jay-Z won’t be able to do better, no matter how hard he works at it or what he says or raps about it.
When it comes to actual contract negotiations with teams, Jay-Z will be hard pressed to do a better job, especially since he’s not focusing on one sport. There are far too many nuances involved to understand markets and labor deals and relationships in three different sports at the same time.
At the NFL level, the solution as to Victor Cruz was to partner with CAA, which makes sense. As to Geno Smith, Jay-Z opted instead to hire an unknown agent, which doesn’t make sense.
Plenty of things will and won’t make sense as Jay-Z continues to embark on a new career that would seem to be far less lucrative than the one he has, which raises the biggest question we’ve had since first hearing about the plan.
Why would he want to do it?