“You Don’t Hire a Rapper to be Your Agent”

I recently watched ESPN’s 30 for 30 documentary on former National Football League running back Ricky Williams. Williams is a two-time All-American and Heisman Trophy winner who played a total of 11 seasons in the NFL and the Canadian Football League before retiring in 2011. Williams is a highly intelligent free spirit who was the subject of controversy due to his first retirement after just five seasons and subsequent suspensions for violating the NFL’s drug policy.

What I thought was going to be an opportunity to zone out in front of the TV turned into the subject of this column: specifically corporate media stereotypes of the Black male. Williams hired No Limit Sports to negotiate his contract with the New Orleans Saints, who drafted him 5th overall in the 1999 NFL draft.
No Limit Sports was owned by Percy “Master P” Miller, a rapper from New Orleans who took a $10,000 inheritance that he used to start a record store and subsequently founded No Limit Records, one of the most successful rap labels in the history of Hip-Hop. Miller’s net worth has been estimated to be as much as $661 million, due to his superior business acumen.
MIller expanded into numerous business ventures following the success of his rap label. His Wikipedia page includes a laundry list of enterprises.
“(Master P) has invested money into starting a jewelry line, auto accessories, stocks, a real estate company, a gas station, started a No Limit clothing line, a phone-sex company and a sports management firm that represents several NBA basketball draft picks, a travel agency, a Foot Locker retail outlet, film, music, and television production, toy making, telecommunications, book & magazine publishing, car rims and fast food franchises. No Limit Communications, a joint venture with marketing guru, Djuan Edgerton, was a surprising success. No Limit Enterprises quickly became a financial powerhouse. According to Black Enterprise magazine No Limit Enterprises grossed $110 million in revenue in 1998 alone.  Miller also has his own line of beverages, called ‘Make ‘Em Say Ughh!’ energy drinks. Miller has also made a foray into mass media, where he founded Better Black Television, a cable television network in November 2010 based in New Orleans, making him the first hip hop entrepreneur to establish a cable television network.”
Like anybody in the high stakes world of business, Miller had some duds: No Limit Sports was one of them. A fair and balanced article by Vice Sports ( https://sports.vice.com/article/no-limit-sports-the-inside-story/ )  summed up the reason for the demise of the sports management agency. A company that was successful in music and films applied that business model to sports management and failed. Football writer Jason Cole, who was interviewed for the Williams documentary, gave viewers a totally distorted picture of the relationship between Williams and No Limit Sports. The contract negotiated by the agency was regarded as a disaster. Other than an $8 million signing bonus only the NFL minimum of $175,000 was guaranteed, with the rest of the deal based on incentives. Williams would have to achieve certain performance goals (rushing yards, touchdowns, etc.) in order to make additional money, an unheard of agreement. A player who was drafted as highly as Williams was expected to be guaranteed a salary worth millions of dollars before playing their first game.
Cole ignored the facts of the story and said, “You don’t hire a rapper to be your agent.” The quote was accompanied by a clip of Williams and Miller sitting together at a press conference, accompanied by a soundbite of Miller chalking up the criticism of Williams’ choice of representation to racism.
A casual viewer was left with the impression that Miller himself negotiated Williams’ contract, and that rappers lacked the intelligence to handle business deals. I confronted Cole on Twitter about his remark. Cole backpedaled and said that he was only talking about Miller. I reminded him of his exact quote. His response was, “So what?” Cole claimed not to recognize the racist implications of his comment. Miller’s track record as an entrepreneur clearly shows that he has forgotten more about business than Cole will ever know. I pointed out to Cole the success of Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s Roc Nation Sports, which partnered with a group of experienced sports agents. Roc Nation negotiated a 10-year, $240 million contract for former New York Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano, who signed with the Seattle Mariners as a free agent prior to the 2014 season. Cano’s contract is one of the richest in sports history. National Basketball Association superstar Kevin Durant of the Oklahoma City Thunder is another Roc Nation client. Carter clearly learned from Miller’s mistakes, as he has seasoned professionals representing his clients.
Did No Limit Sports drop the ball in their representation of Williams? Absolutely. Up to that point however, the agency had actually been successful, managing a small roster of National Basketball Association players who they had signed prior to acquiring Williams. Williams maintains that he specifically requested the terms of his contract. Williams subsequently fired No Limit Sports and signed with agent Leigh Steinberg, who renegotiated Williams’ contract after he was traded to the Miami Dolphins in 2002. Miller selected an inexperienced individual who was in over his head when he negotiated the contract for Williams, No Limit Sports’ first star who they wished to make their flagship client. Cole took one of the few missteps in Miller’s business career and stereotyped rappers as being too ignorant to succeed in the corporate world. Shameful.
David Samuels
Community Party
Follow CP on Twitter for state, national and global headlines and updates on the status of our Trayvon Martin and Safe Work Environment Acts, including action alerts. https://twitter.com/CommunityParty1    Listen to WQTQ 89.9 FM for CP’s public service announcements on our racial justice initiatives. https://www.facebook.com/wqtqfm Check out our No Sellout blog (https://hendu39.wordpress.com/) for the complete archive of CP columns and Northend Agent’s for selected columns (http://www.northendagents.com/) . Contact us at 860-206-8879 or info.community.party@gmail.com

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