One by one, the remnants of the sixth-winningest football team of the twentieth century have disappeared. The name was dropped last summer in the aftermath of the George Floyd protests. Crowds were banned from January’s close playoff loss to the eventual Super Bowl winner. As the franchise embarked on a woke hiring spree, it laid off its longtime beloved receptionist in May.
But it was a tweet from a pseudonymous blogger that foretold what still might be in store.
“Jay-Z is actively divesting assets to position himself for purchase of stake” in the Washington Football Team, it said. The scoop, from Burgundy Blog, was reputable enough for certain media outlets to pick up.
The readying of Jay-Z to be an owner explains a surprising resolution to an ownership feud just months before. Earlier, the NFL gave special permission to majority owner Daniel Snyder to exceed the league’s personal debt limit and buy out his three minority partners.
Snyder – who kept sole voting rights since he took on these partners a few years after acquiring the team in 1999 – wasn’t interested in getting back the 40% of the team he didn’t already own. Instead, he sought to cut ties with the three estranged investors suing Snyder in an effort to unwind the soured partnership.
Now, the NFL wouldn’t step in to save one of its most unpopular and unsuccessful owners without exacting a price. What better price than a woke graybeard as the next face of the franchise?
Jay-Z already quietly put his tentacles into the organization during the past tumultuous year. Another connected source revealed his Roc Nation management company has been making personnel, marketing, and media relations decisions for the Washington Football Team.
These include the hiring of team president Jason Wright and the former CFO of Roc Nation, the name rebrand, and a shift in outreach from the hometown Washington Post to the New York Times. All moves with Jay-Z’s fingerprints on them.
In 2017, Jay-Z sat down with Times executive editor Dean Banquet, sealing his transformation into hardcore insider. In the interview, Jay-Z revealed he’d been undergoing therapy. But its trajectory came through Roc Nation, which he expanded from music to sports in 2013.
In 2019, he lured in the ultimate corporate client — the NFL. Since then, Roc Nation’s advised Roger Goodell on Super Bowl halftime lineups and social justice. In addition, they advised the Washington Football Team on how to get better press.
Suddenly, the rapper who put the media on top of his list of “99 Problems” is now selling access to the New York Times.
If time hasn’t been good to Jay-Z stylistically, it has been financially. He’s reportedly worth $1.4 billion after selling his lackluster music streaming service Tidal to friend Jack Dorsey’s other company. The required asset divestitures to get into the NFL could allow him to come up with the cash to buy all or some of the 40% of the Washington Football Team that Snyder’s three partners just offloaded for $875 million.
Neither Jay-Z nor anyone else would risk becoming another silent partner of Snyder’s. But if Jay-Z could shape the business side of the enterprise as a paid consultant. If he does, buying into the team stands to gain him voting rights that Snyder couldn’t withhold. The Washington Football Team would then be one Jerry Richardson episode away from a savior coming to the rescue.
Now, Snyder’s 31 fellow owners would probably prefer Jay-Z to Jeff Bezos if Snyder had to be sacrificed. For one, no one can predict what the world’s richest man might do to their club if he were admitted. On the other hand, Jay-Z has become utterly predictable.
He’ll say the right things to please the media, strike the right friendships, and see to it the league’s corporate partners continue to pay up for a product at odds with their own tastes. Jay-Z would be hard for any would-be NFL critic to get past. That says something about how simple it is to buy positive coverage from the media these days.
Jay-Z’s post-rap career highlights how PR now dominates the media. Yes, it’s true goodwill always had its own power. Magic Johnson’s second act is a testament to that. However, the ability to shape storylines is even more powerful.
It’s possible because the media has become so pliable. There’s no typecast for good press like having Magic’s personality. You just have to be on the side of elitism. Sell-outs like Jay-Z are equally welcome as liars like Kyrie Irving.
Reporters fashioning themselves as the police against a miscreant public (and cry wolf about being defunded) will repeat anything put in their mouths that serves this larger cause.
Jay-Z is not taking retainers to grow an advisory business. Someone who always spotted angles senses a larger opportunity. Instead, Jay-Z is using his media standing to get his next big asset.
The signs point to the team without a name in Washington.
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