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Monday, August 19, 2019

Sports Business

NFL forms business partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation

Jay Z

The NFL has formed a business partnership with one of the most influential figures in the entertainment industry.

Jay-Z confirmed on Tuesday that his agency, Roc Nation, has reached a deal with the NFL that will make the music mogul a co-producer of the Super Bowl halftime show. There is no provision that says Jay-Z himself will be a halftime performer, and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Jay-Z made sure the agreement was not going to be about him taking the stage.

“I think we have autonomy. I anticipate that there will be a lot of — with any big organization, in this building right here we have internal problems,” Jay-Z told Mark Maske of The Washington Post. “Anything that’s new is going to go through its growing pains. We put what we want to do on the table. The NFL agreed to it. So we’re gonna proceed with that as if we have a partnership.”

According to NFL.com, here are details on the partnership:

As part of the agreement, Roc Nation will advise on the selection of artists for major NFL performances like the Super Bowl. A major component of the partnership will be to nurture and strengthen community through football and music, including through the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative.

The NFL formally launched the Inspire Change initiative in early 2019, after more than two years of work with NFL players, with the goal of creating positive change in communities across the country. Through this initiative, NFL teams and the league office work with the Players Coalition and other NFL players to support programs and initiatives that reduce barriers to opportunity, with a focus on three priority areas: education and economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform.

Roc Nation Sports currently represents several star athletes, including New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley. Going into business with Jay-Z could be a good move for the NFL as it looks to rebuild its reputation among younger fans and the urban community. The handling of issues like national anthem protests and Donald Trump’s criticisms of players and teams has been a significant challenge for the NFL, and partnering with Roc Nation could help them navigate through some of that.

For what it’s worth, Jay-Z is one of a number of celebrities who have openly supported Colin Kaepernick. There was even talk that Jay-Z turned down the Super Bowl halftime show two years ago and encouraged others to do the same because of the way the NFL had treated Kaepernick. Some believe the league partnering with Jay-Z will help Kaepernick land an NFL contract.

NCAA changes ‘Rich Paul Rule,’ removes degree requirement

Rich Paul

The NCAA created a great deal of controversy recently when it implemented new criteria for agents who are representing student-athletes who want to test the NBA Draft waters, and the rule has already been changed.

On Monday, the NCAA amended a key portion of the new guidelines. Whereas before it was mandatory that any agent representing a player who is testing the NBA Draft must have a college degree, agents now have to either have a bachelor’s degree or be certified by the NBA Players Association.

That is a key distinction, and it was almost certainly added because of the backlash the NCAA received for supposedly targeting NBA superagent Rich Paul. Paul, who represents LeBron James and numerous other star players, has quickly become one of the most powerful agents in sports. He does not have a college degree.

Paul wrote a guest column for The Athletic on Monday in which he criticized the NCAA for creating barriers for young people who do not have the means or desire to attend college. He also said he supported the part of the new rule that requires agents to have three years of experience.

Many believe the situation with Paul and former Syracuse recruit Darius Bazley was part of the inspiration behind the NCAA introducing new criteria, but removing the college degree requirement changes things quite a bit.

Rich Paul issues response to NCAA supposedly creating rule for him

Rich Paul

A lot has been made of the NCAA introducing new criteria for agents who want to represent student-athletes testing the NBA Draft waters, and many are calling it “The Rich Paul Rule.” On Monday, the man who allegedly inspired the rule issued a lengthy response.

Paul, who represents LeBron James and several other NBA stars, wrote a guest column for The Athletic in which he began by saying he does not believe the new criteria were put in place specifically for him. However, he was highly critical of the NCAA for thinking agents who have a four-year degree are any more qualified to represent young athletes than those who don’t, such as himself.

“I actually support requiring three years of experience before representing a kid testing the market. I can even get behind passing a test,” Paul wrote. “However, requiring a four-year degree accomplishes only one thing — systematically excluding those who come from a world where college is unrealistic.”

“Does anyone really believe a four-year degree is what separates an ethical person from a con artist?”

Paul does not have a college degree, but he has quickly become one of the most successful agents in basketball and has a client roster that includes LeBron, Anthony Davis, Ben Simmons, Draymond Green and John Wall. He said he has had numerous young black kids from the Greater Cleveland area where he grew up tell him he has shown them there is another career path they can use to leave their “troubled surroundings,” and he feels the NCAA’s new guidelines create barriers for people in those situations.

“Respectfully, how do four years studying sports marketing in a classroom make you more qualified to represent a kid than working at Klutch Sports Group or for an NBA front office; or at any other entrepreneurial business for that matter?” Paul wrote. “All this will do is exclude the agents whose life experience helps them understand the needs of many of these players best.”

The NCAA has defended its reasoning behind the new policy, so it does not sound like it is going to change. At least one NBA executive has also denied that the new rules were created for Paul, but many feel what happened between Paul and former Syracuse commit Darius Bazley helped inspire the change. Even if it wasn’t the primary motivation, it’s hard to believe it wasn’t a factor.

LeBron James says ‘scared’ agents, NCAA created Rich Paul rule

LeBron James

The NCAA seems to have created a rule that is targeted at Rich Paul. LeBron James appears to think that is the case.

On Tuesday, word emerged that the NCAA created some criteria required for agents who wish to represent student-athletes who are interested in testing NBA draft waters. Student-athletes can test their potential position in the draft without losing their college eligibility, which is a change from the past when declaring for the draft prevented players from returning to school. The new conditions require agents to have a college degree and be certified for at least three years. The new criteria appear to be targeted at Paul, an NBA superagent, who does not have a degree.

James, who was Paul’s first client when the agent began Klutch Sports in 2012, believes the rule was created to limit Paul and is the result of the establishment being “scared”.

There could be some good coming from the new criteria; the requirements aim to add greater protection for student-athletes to ensure they are represented by experienced and qualified agents. However, Paul has shown he is one of the best agents in the business, and he didn’t need a college degree to become that. Maybe he was getting too good and this was a way they had to slow him down.

What’s Paul going to do? Challenge the rule, citing his experience negotiating hundreds of millions of dollars in NBA contracts? Or complete some garbage online bachelor’s degree to comply with their new rule? Or maybe he’ll just sit there laughing about how establishments try to change the rules once someone becomes too good.

Did the NCAA add an anti-Rich Paul agent rule?

Rich Paul

Did the NCAA create a new rule for agents that is aimed specifically at Rich Paul? That sure seems to be the case.

College basketball reporter Jon Rothstein reported on Tuesday that the NCAA has added criteria for agents who want to represent student-athletes testing the NBA Draft market. The criteria includes requiring agents to have a bachelor’s degree, be certified with the NBPA for a minimum of three years, and take an in-person exam at the NCAA Office in Indianapolis.

Why would they create such a rule? Well, there might be some thinking that instituting such minimum requirements would help protect student-athletes from being advised by unqualified representatives. Another way to look at it is they’re trying to restrict agents like Rich Paul from emerging by making aspiring agents jump through more and more hoops.

Paul is the founder of Klutch Sports and best known for representing LeBron James. He has grown into much more since starting Klutch Sports in 2012 and has become a game-changing agent viewed as someone who will help empower an athlete to do what’s best for themselves. At the same time, he appears to also value professionalism and commitments. He recently sold a stake in Klutch Sports to Hollywood talent agency United Talent Agency. His client list includes about 25 NBA players like Ben Simmons, Draymond Green and John Wall in addition to LeBron. He’s built all of this despite not having a college degree. Not having a degree means Paul wouldn’t be able to represent a player who is testing the draft waters and considering a return to school.

If Paul has accomplished as much as he has without a college degree, why would the NCAA require three years of certification and a college degree for someone to represent a student-athlete testing the waters? LeBron James didn’t need a college degree to get where he did. Nor did Kobe Bryant. And clearly Paul didn’t either. Such a restriction seems to be a play by existing agents to keep out potential competition.

Report: Zion Williamson made millions more from Nike due to shoe malfunction

Zion Williamson shoe

A malfunction with a pair of sneakers made by Nike may have cost Zion Williamson some time during the college basketball season earlier this year, but it sounds like it actually turned out to be a good thing for the former Duke star.

Williamson announced on Tuesday that he has signed an endorsement deal with Jordan Brand, which is of course owned by Nike. While the terms of the deal were not initially known, Darren Rovell of The Action Network reports that Williamson blowing out his shoe on national TV “made the stakes of landing Zion that much greater.” Rovell estimates that Williamson made millions more on his endorsement deal because the embarrassing sneaker malfunction made Nike that much more desperate to sign him.

Williamson suffered what initially looked like a serious injury in Duke’s game against rival North Carolina back in March when his shoe literally fell apart during play. It was a public relations nightmare for Nike, which sponsors Duke and produces their athletic gear.

As many as seven shoe companies expressed interest in signing Williamson before he was drafted No. 1 overall by the New Orleans Pelicans, and some wondered if the blown out shoe would impact his decision. He fueled that buzz when he was spotted wearing a different brand a few months back, but in the end it sounds like the deal worked out for everyone.

Big Baller Brand selling T-shirts, hats for $5 on clearance

LaVar Ball Lakers

It doesn’t seem like all that long ago that LaVar Ball and his Big Baller Brand were being relentlessly mocked for selling $500 sneakers. The ridicule still exists, but for a much different reason now.

At one of their pop-up shops over the weekend, Big Baller Brand was selling several items on clearance. Prices ranged from $5 for T-shirts and hats to $100 for a package that includes a T-shirt, hoodie, pair of shoes and pair of socks.

When the Big Baller Brand first launched, Lonzo Ball’s signatures shoes were selling for $495. Hats and T-shirts were around $50. Many people thought the prices were absurd, but LaVar Ball insisted all of the items were selling at a furious pace and his family was making money in bundles.

Not so much, anymore. Lonzo recently distanced himself from BBB, and he had a pretty good reason for doing so. That has almost certainly had a negative impact on the brand, and you have to wonder how much longer they can stay in business with clearance prices like that.