Wednesday, September 26, 2007

RocaWear Arena? Jigga Please.

Watching yesterday's congressional hearings, and last night's SoundByte Olympics: Hip Hop Edition on BET, one common argument bought up in defense of rap music is that it has created a whole new generation of CEO's, executives, and entrepreneurs. As if Negroes couldn't have (and haven't already) accomplished the same things by just working hard and going to college like the rest of us. Never mind that in 90% of the cases listed, there's a white co-signer who made the whole thing possible, and profits far more than the ghetto inhabitants he exploits to the detriment of their own communities puts on. Lyon Cohen begot Russell Simmons. Jerry Heller enabled Easy-E. And of then course, there's Jay-Z.

While I'm sure to be branded as a hater for this (as if I care), it really irks me when Jay-Z is repeatedly referred to as "owner" of the NBA's New Jersey Nets. Let's be real here: yes, Jay-Z is technically a part-owner of the team. He cut a check for $5.4M that didn't bounce, which gave him some shares in the club. But for real, Jay-Z's contribution to the team's ownership just looks like another one of those boutique equity deals to me. Other than sitting courtside with Beyonce and plugging his albums to season ticket holders, it doesn't look like the Jigga Man contributes much to the everyday operations of the organization other than star quality and good paparazzi photos. Ownership? Yes. Power? Not so much.

On the other hand, anyone with a shred of common sense knows the real reason Jay-Z was extended the right to purchase part of the team is because they are slated to move to Brooklyn, NY (his hometown) in a few years. This move involves a very controversial displacement of longtime residents and a land grab via eminent domain for construction of the team's new arena, which isn't very popular politically to say the least.

So when I read stories like the one below, while I want to celebrate it as a "testament to the economic opportunities that hip hop can provide" (their words, not mine), I can't help but ignore my Negro Intuition.

Most naming rights deals are struck at the beginning of an arena or stadium's life in today's marketplace. But three apparel companies are now vying to display their names on the 26-year-old building now known as Continental Airlines Arena. Only one, Izod, is a household name. The others, Rocawear and Southpole, are up-and coming brands that market to an urban demographic.

But all three have a relationship with Brett Yormark, the president and CEO of the New Jersey Nets. The basketball team will be the only marquee tenant in the arena for now because the New Jersey Devils are moving to a new home in Newark.

Izod is already a sponsor of the basketball team.

One of Rocawear's founders is hip-hop entrepreneur Jay-Z, who is a part-owner of the Nets, and the company is also a sponsor. Southpole, based in Fort Lee, has been in talks with the team to be a sponsor, Yormark said. Neither returned calls to The Associated Press for comment.
To me, this re-naming, assuming it actually happens (which is doubtful), it little more than good P.R. for a clothing label that Jay-Z no longer owns, and further P.R. for the area of Brooklyn in which this behemoth of an area will sit. Especially when you consider the pricetag of a mere $600,000, versus the $20M a year that the naming rights for the new area will fetch.

I guess in the grand scheme of things, superfluous PR reasons aside, renaming the Meadowlands as the Rocafella Arena could be worse. How worse? Just consider the fact that the new area, Barclays Bank, is named after a company that (allegedly) profited from the slave trade. What's next? The Bull Connor Coliseum? The David Duke Center?

The Nets will quietly sell the Meadowlands naming rights to some obscure regional financial institution hext week, and RocaWear, Izod, and SouthPole (who actually wears this stuff?) will get a nice shot of PR in the process. It's called a Grand Hu$tle for a reason, folks.

Bertram Lee and Peter Bynoe are crying inside.

Meadowlands arena could have new name by next week [AP]

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