Add one more line to Jay-Z’s long and lucrative resume: sports agent. The hip-hop star nabbed New York Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano, who fired one of sports’ most aggressive agents to become Jay-Z’s first client. The rapper is partnering with the powerhouse talent agency CAA to start a sports management company called Roc Nation Sports. The move could be good for Jay-Z and perhaps even for baseball in general.
But first, Jay-Z would have to best the short but rather checkered history of rappers as sports agents. It’s an especially low bar. The contract Master P got for NFL running back Ricky Williams is often cited as among the worst in modern sports. But Jay-Z has shown a talent for smart partnerships and deal-making. He has a small but influential stake in the Brooklyn Nets basketball team.
“It’s a very lucrative business to represent players,” Smith College sports economist Andrew Zimbalist points out. “Grabbing a superstar like Robinson Cano is a great first step and potentially a very positive move for Jay-Z.”
This could mean top sports agents have to raise their game, as Jay-Z and his high-powered partners stalk their clients. It could be positive for the sport itself. Jay-Z taking an interest in baseball could help with an issue that has recently frustrated the game.
“There is a significant problem facing Major League Baseball in terms of the diversity of their audience,” says Temple University sports economist Michael Leeds.
African-American baseball fans and players have dwindled in recent years. Now one of the most famous African-Americans on Earth is firmly in the baseball business. A growing Jay-Z presence might drive new ticket sales and stronger TV ratings, by getting a new audience to give baseball a second look.
“Any positive impact would be appreciated by the game,” says Kenneth Shropshire, director of the Sports Business Initiative at University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “It’s gonna be interesting to see if this plays a role.”
But of course he and other sports business observers are quick to add that it’ll take much more than one rapper’s involvement to fix baseball’s audience problem.