In Jay-Z's hit Run This Town, the rapper turned mogul proclaims, "This is Roc Nation, pledge your allegiance." Now plenty of pro athletes will be doing just that.
The entertainment company Roc Nation announced Tuesday that they will launch Roc Nation Sports, a full-service sports management company led by Jay-Z (aka Shawn Carter) and partnering with Creative Artists Agency. The group also announced the signing of Roc Nation Sports' first client, New York Yankees All-Star second baseman Robinson Cano.
"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," Carter said in a statement.
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The formation of the agency creates an array of branding opportunities for Roc Nation athletes, who could take advantage of the global cachet in the entertainment world that association with Jay-Z would bring. While the former agent/client partnership between a major rapper and athlete (Master P and Ricky Williams) didn't work out, adding CAA to the fold gives Roc Nation an instant credibility that No Limit Sports never had.
"At this point in my career, I am ready to take a more active role in my endeavors both on and off the field," Cano, who is leaving agent Scott Boras to sign with Roc Nation, said in a statement.
"I am confident that the pairing of Roc Nation Sports & CAA Sports will be essential in helping me accomplish my short- & long-term goals."
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Cano, who is eligible for free agency after the 2013 season, will be represented by Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA. While Boras rarely steers clients nearing free agency toward contract extensions, CAA and Van Wagenen in particular, are far more likely to have their clients sign extensions before hitting the open market. CAA stars who have signed long-term agreements with their clubs include Ryan Braun (signed with the Milwaukee Brewers through 2020), Ryan Zimmerman (Washington Nationals, 2019), Matt Cain (San Francisco Giants, 2017), Ryan Howard (Philadelphia Phillies, 2016) and Adam Jones (Baltimore Orioles, 2018).
"Robinson Cano is an extraordinary all-around talent who has established himself as one of the game's best and most consistent players. Our mandate is to minimize his distractions while helping him achieve his goals on and off the field in both the short and the long term," Van Wagenen said. "His immediate concern is continuing to show respect for the Yankees organization, his teammates and the fans."
Look for the agency to move quickly to ink players in other sports as well. It is almost certain that Carter, who has been a very public face of the Brooklyn Nets, would have to sell his ownership shares in the team if he wanted to represent NBA players. His financial stake in the team, which has been reported by the New York Times to be one-fifteenth of 1%, is not as impactful.
Could Victor Cruz be the next Roc Nation Sports client? (Photo: Debby Wong, USA TODAY Sports)
Roc Nation's next move could be a jump into the NFL with New York Giants wide receiver Victor Cruz. The two have been friends for a while, with Cruz showing up at a few Jay-Z concerts last year.
Plus, Cruz added a twist to his touchdown celebrations last year. After his signature salsa, he flashed Jay-Z's "Illuminati" symbol toward TV cameras.
Asked after a game in October if he and Jay-Z were working toward a business partnership, Cruz dodged the question.
"I'd rather keep that under wraps. I don't want to let the cat out of the bag just yet." Asked if he'd provide any clarity soon, Cruz said, "We'll see in the upcoming weeks what happens."
Cruz recently fired his agent and signed with CAA's Tom Condon, which would seemingly set the stage for his aligning with Jay-Z in some capacity.
Reporting by: Mike Garafolo, Bob Nightengale, Jeff Zillgitt