Thornton’s comments underscore Jay-Z’s role in recruiting Geno Smith (updated)


The agent community is buzzing in the aftermath of the decision of Jets quarterback Geno Smith to hire a previously unknown agent who happens to be employed by the sports agency owned by Jay-Z.

It’s fairly obvious to the neutral observer that Smith picked Roc Nation to represent him not because of the previously unknown agent but because of the man who owns the firm.  If Jay-Z wasn’t involved in the recruitment of Smith, Jay-Z’s ownership of the firm wouldn’t be a problem.  But if Jay-Z helped persuade Smith to hire Roc Nation not only for off-field deals (which aren’t covered by the NFLPA rules) but for his football contract (which is), Jay-Z possibly ran afoul of the NFLPA’s prohibition on the use of non-certified agents in the recruitment of clients.

One of Smith’s advisers, former West Virginia and NFL defensive lineman John Thornton, essentially admitted that Smith picked Jay-Z, not the agent, and that Jay-Z was directly involved in persuading Smith to hire Roc Nation.”It really all came down to who he was most comfortable with,” Thornton told  “I was in those meetings and Jay-Z connected with him on many levels.”

(Thornton says, via Twitter, that he was misquoted by CBS.)

Jay-Z connected with Geno Smith, not the previously unknown agent Jay-Z has hired to work for Roc Nation.  And so the facts at a minimum suggest that Jay-Z recruited Geno Smith to sign with the agent, which if true would be a violation of NFLPA rules.

The most important question is whether the NFLPA will do anything about it.  The union has not responded to a request for comment sent via email on Wednesday afternoon.  Previously, the union allowed Jay-Z to be involved in the recruitment of Giants receiver Victor Cruz by CAA, based on Jay-Z’s pre-existing friendship with Cruz.

While plenty of agents are looking at this as a way for the NFLPA to knock Jay-Z down a few pegs as he encroaches on their turf, others simply want guidance as to what is and isn’t allowed.  If Jay-Z was indeed involved in recruiting Smith, a potentially gaping loophole in the rules has been created, which could prompt other agents to partner with non-agent celebrities who then would help attract clients.

Essentially, the now-defunct “runner” industry would be resurrected, with artists, actors, and entertainers replacing the anonymous figures who previously operated in the shadows.  Maybe that’s a better alternative.  For now, other agents want to know whether that alternative will be acknowledged as valid.

UPDATE 11:32 a.m. ET:  As noted above, Thornton claims that he was misquoted by CBS.  Via Twitter, Thornton says that Jay-Z did not attend meetings with Smith, and that he was in London.  That said, Smith posted on Instagram last week a photo with Jay-Z.

18 responses to “Thornton’s comments underscore Jay-Z’s role in recruiting Geno Smith (updated)

  1. Cruz’s contract will get Jay Z and his group paid. Robbie Cano’s deal will get them paid HUGE.
    But someone needs to explain to him that Geno Smith wasn’t even a first round pick; in fact, the 39th overall. The commission he’ll be taking home will hardly be worth all this attention.

  2. Mike – Be careful talking about Hov like that.
    ‘Hov don’t run..Hov stand and fight…Hov a solider…Hov been fighting all his life.’

  3. Roc Nation, Jay-Z, and the uknown agent obviously caught Geno smith’s attention and locked him in by displying their incredible influence and ability to help their clients succeed.

    I mean, they were able to get him drafted in the middle of the 2nd round when he had a 1st round grade, behind another QB (E.J. Manuel) who was projected to be the 108th pick…….

  4. Just out of curiousity, what exactly would be the punishment? I figure Smith gets off free. Jay Z is not a registered agent in the NFL so he probably gets off free. Will it be this unknown agent taking the blow?

  5. I’m glad the Jets finally found a non-controversial QB who can stay out of the headlines.

    Now all they need is a good running back.

    Perhaps OJ Simpson will come out of retirement.

  6. The agent is so unknown that their name is not even uttered once in the article.

  7. Hey Rex, Idzik, Woody – how many 80-yard playoff overtime TD’s has Geno thrown to beat the Steelers’ #1 ranked defense?

    Good thing the Jets got rid of that no-talent, self-promoting, walking distraction known as Tim Tebow. The last thing they need is a distraction at quarterback.

  8. Is anyone naive enough to think that other agents are not using some of their connections to recruit guys? Especially agents from the bigger firms such as CAA.

    They have clients All major USA sports league, movie, television, and music industry.

    This guy is just dumb enough to talk about it on the record.

  9. What can anyone actually do about this though? Fine Jay-Z? He doesn’t belong to any group that could fine him.

    How is it possible that certain athletes can represent themselves in negotiations without a “license” from the NFLPA if this is an issue?

  10. Not a fan of Jay-Z or Gino Smith, bu isn’t this kind of stupid?

    Jay-Z would have easily been in a meeting with Smith, when he signed him to rep him.

    What I don’t understand, why is it an issue for Jay-Z to get Smith to sign for someone that works for him? If the guy is approved by the NFL to work his NFL contract, then why is there an issue? Jay-Z is not going to be negotiating the contract and a certified rep is, what is the problem?

  11. This whole thing smells like rotten fish. Now they can’t even keep their lies straight. And it doesn’t surprise me that the nfl players union is silent. Their trying to make sure they don’t end up with egg on their face like Gino and the ex NFL player. Either way I hope Jay Z doesn’t get away with it because its setting a very bad precedent.

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