The news that Kevin Durant is joining rapper Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports means the tide is turning.
And that’s a good thing.
Without question, Jay-Z is already a force in the agent game. First, he landed Robinson Cano, a star’s star in baseball, and now, Durant, another A-lister.
Not bad for just getting involved in this business not long ago. For sure, agents out there are shaking in their boots, scared they could lose their cash cows after watching two mega stars walk to brother-up with Jay-Z.
This revelation is bigger than just Jay-Z trying to get a percentage of those mega-million dollar deals being signed all over Sports America.
It’s more about African-Americans having a chance to land some of the biggest and best athletes out there.
At one time, there weren’t many black agents out there. Today, there are more. But there aren’t any black super agents. Although still early, Jay-Z is on the way to being that.
It also signals that today’s black athlete is looking differently at the black agent. It’s a vision of both power and pride between the two groups.
It wasn’t always the case. It wasn’t long ago, about 15 years, when I wrote this in a column for Newsday:
“And for once, black athletes have no one to blame but themselves. Sadly, many black players, whether they admit it or not, practice racism against their own people.
They are so afraid that a black agent won’t be treated with the same respect from pro sports all-white ownership. Hence, some black players believe they need the man to talk to the man in order to get a fair deal. That is why they overlook black agents and hire white ones.”
Times have happily changed that. And this isn’t just about getting onboard with Jay-Z, but hopefully others will take a broader look at all agents and be willing to give others an opportunity.
It was always harder for the Eugene Parkers and the Poston brothers – black agents who have done well for their black clients – to grab the money-printers in the game.
In the NFL, the money-printers are normally the quarterbacks. And in baseball, where money is long and all-guaranteed, black agents are few and far between.
And even in the NBA, a league more than 80 percent black, often the biggest paydays were negotiated by white agents.
Because black agents were late to the game, African-Americans were either scared or talked out of dealing with brothers to get them what they deserve.
Those same black agents were almost never employed by white athletes. So if a brother didn’t hire you, you were just about out in the cold.
It’s never been about exclusion, but inclusion – giving African-American agents a chance to work their magic and know-how with owners.
A man has a right to hire whomever he thinks can get him the best deal. And for years, black athletes hired white agents. Sadly, the same isn’t the case when it came to white athletes hiring black agents. That’s not to say that it hasn’t happened. But if you were to line up the Top 50 contracts by white athletes, none have been engineered by a brother.
Things are similar for most of the top contracts for black athletes. In 2012, Prince Fielder signed a stunning nine-year, $214-million contract with the Detroit Tigers. Fielder’s agent is super baseball agent Scott Boras.
In fact, Boras has negotiated some of the largest contracts, including both of Alex Rodriguez’s record-setting contracts – the first $252 million with the Texas Rangers and the second, $275 million with the New York Yankees.
Boras has been involved in three of the four 200-plus million dollar deals in sports history.
The idea that Cano, who is in line for an eye-popping contract as he enters free-agency this offseason, signed with Jay-Z is amazing. It’s breaking down a barrier.
First of all, baseball owns 15 of the top 16 richest contracts in the history of sports. Only Floyd Mayweather’s two-year, $180-million deal with Showtime ranks on that list, tied at No. 8.
Baseball doesn’t have many black agents, and none brokering deals that could approach $200 million.
If Robinson gets the deal he deserves, it could open the floodgates for others to go another route come money time.