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La famillia ready to Roc sports like never before

Roc Nation Sports' diverse global take over is moving like no other sports marketing agency. They are reaching into sports that are alien to Americans and are taking only the most elite
Author: Simphiwe Nyobole
Thu, Apr 01, 2021

PHOTO: Roc Nation Sports FB

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"See in my inner circle all we do is ball, 'till we all got triangles on our wall."

When Jay-Z wrote these lyrics to his version of Cutting Crew's 1986 classic (I Just) Died in Your Arms Tonight, he surely never imagined that the triangles on walls, which is the gesture for his mega music company Roc-A-Fella, would extend to sport, much less rugby.

The triangle, in fact, denotes an inverted diamond. It's a gesture associated with the rapper Jay-Z that hoards make to pledge their allegiance, one that Shawn Carter tried to trademark a few years ago, and one that has also garnered Illuminati conspirators to speculate in their droves.

Beyonce, Kanye West, Nas, Damon Dash, Kobe Bryant, Denzel Washington and most of your favourite people in entertainment and sports have been pictured holding up the inverted diamond in the style Jay-Z did on his 2000 The Dynasty: Roc La Familia album.

Since Roc-A-Fella gave birth to Roc Nation, which in turn gave rise to Roc Nation Sports International, Jay-Z's sphere of influence has permeated into South African sport, mostly rugby, in ways never imagined before.

"I'm not a businessman … I'm a business, man," said Jay in the now-famous Diamonds From Sierra Leone (remix) by Kanye West. How right he was. Few lyrics (or lyricists) have aged better than that 2005 epic line.

There are fewer business avenues, still, that Jay-Z has traversed which haven't led to worldwide success.

There's been a hive of activity around the billionaire's commercial interests, as he has recently sold majority shares of his music streaming label Tidal to Square for $297 million (R4.4 billion), days after he sold 50% of his champagne brand Armand de Brignac (aka Ace of Spades) to luxury giant LVMH.

The itinerant Roc Nation portfolio has reached so far across the globe that Jay-Z's fingerprints can be found at Kings Park, where the Sharks rugby franchise has welcomed US consortium MVM Holdings as their majority equity partner.

After months courting Cape Town franchise, the Stormers, through its owners Western Province Rugby Union, MVM Holdings, led by Amanzimtoti-born businessman Marco Masotti, acquired 51% of the Sharks this year.

Within the consortium sits Roc Nation Sports president Michael Yormark, who by the time the acquisition was finalised on 7 January, had Springbok World Cup-winning captain Siya Kolisi on Roc Nation's books for more than a year.

On 5 December 2019, a month after South Africa won the Rugby World Cup in Japan, Kolisi went to sign his groundbreaking contract in England, brandished the Roc-A-Fella "la familia" inverted diamond symbol. The takeover of rugby was sealed. Soon after, Springbok wing Cheslin Kolbe, one of the try-scorers at the International Stadium Yokohama on 2 November 2019 final against England, joined the Roc Nation stable.

Influential English lock-cum-flank Maro Itoje also hopped on board. Three of the best rugby players on the globe joined "la familia", a select band of athletes which includes three-time NBA champion, 3-and-D superstar Danny Green, Man City midfield maestro Kevin de Bruyne, the best hands in basketball, Kyrie Irving, as well as other footballers Marcus Rashford and Romelu Lukaku.

In 2020, Proteas cricketer Lungi Ngidi became the third South African on the all-star cast, taking Roc Nation's reach into sports that Americans find alien. The company manages their commercial interests and propels them to global appeal like no other sports marketing agency can.

Back in SA, Kolisi's links with Roc Nation and MVM Holdings – also through his relationship with SA businessman and philanthropist Vincent Mai – led to a switch from captaining the Stormers to playing for the Sharks.

After weeks of speculation, Kolisi was confirmed by Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee on 17 February in front of select South African sports media at the Kings Park Media Centre.

Covid-19 robbed the occasion of the fanfare that it probably deserved. Never has a sitting Springbok captain in the professional rugby era crossed allegiances directly from one big SA team to another in the way Kolisi did by going to the Sharks.

It's often occurred that a player goes from one union and detours to an overseas club before coming back to SA and playing for a different franchise. Percy Montgomery, Bob Skinstad and Duane Vermeulen did it this way.

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The seismic Kolisi switch shows the level of influence anything associated with Jay-Z can achieve. A lot like when Nas went from beefing with Jigga, to getting his Roc-A-Fella medallion on 'Chaining Day' (for those who don't know, it's when a rapper gets presented with his "chain").

Soon enough, we will all have triangles on our walls.

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