Last month, the NFLPA gave Jay-Z a pass regarding his involvement in CAA’s recruitment of Giants receiver Victor Cruz, attributing any influence Jay-Z may have exercised to his longstanding friendship with Cruz (which likely didn’t date back to his days as an unknown wideout at UMass).
This month, Jay-Z has put the PA in a slightly more complex pickle.
The entertainment mogul’s 100th problem arises from a change made by the union in 2012 to the rules regarding “runners.” Essentially, the NFLPA has banned them, allowing only certified NFLPA agents to be recruit potential clients. Since Jay-Z isn’t a certified NFLPA agent, he can’t be involved in recruiting a player to sign with an agent for the purposes of handling the player’s NFL contract.
Despite the existence of a business relationship between Jay-Z’s Roc Nation and CAA, CAA wasn’t one of the agencies in the running to represent Jets quarterback Geno Smith. Instead, Roc Nation hired Kim Miale, a largely (if not completely) unknown NFLPA-certified agent, whom Smith has now hired to represent him.
She represents no active NFL players. Except for Geno Smith.
So which person did Smith really choose? Miale, or Jay-Z? Smith said that Jay-Z played “not that big of a role” in the decision, but Smith based the decision on “being in New York from a standpoint of what they can do in the city, the connections that they have, I think it’s a good move.”
So who’s the “they”? Miale, or the guy with whom Smith was hanging out last week?
In past posts, we’ve chalked up much of the complaining about Jay-Z from other agents to run-of-the-mill professional jealously. But that was before Jay-Z embarked on a strategy that seems to brazenly violate the applicable rules. Under this precedent, any actor, musician, or other celebrity can, in lieu of demonstrating the credentials to become an NFLPA-certified agent, launch a firm, hire an unknown agent, and represent players without technically “representing” them.
As one agent said in response to today’s developments, “Maybe I need to hire P. Diddy in order to get clients.”
The wiser move for Jay-Z would have been to steer Smith to another firm (like Priority Sports) for his contract, and to sign Smith for off-field endorsements. While some agents may have scoffed at the idea of letting Jay-Z essentially run the show, eventually some agent who actually has had, you know, active NFL clients would have accepted the assignment.
It’s unknown whether the NFLPA will challenge the situation. While it will be easier for Jay-Z to tiptoe around the potential recruitment issue if the players are hiring Roc Nation for off-field opportunities and CAA for their contracts, it becomes much harder to pass the smell test when the actual agent is a warm body with a license to negotiate clients, and the clients believe that they’re actually hiring Jay-Z.
When everyone else believes it, too, it becomes even more of a dilemma for the union.