Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
I’m all for athlete empowerment, for players gaining power in their relationship with management and broadening personal goals beyond sports to business. From media and fashion to vineyards and fast food, athletes can branch into numerous areas and do well, even before they retire.
Some players have gone on to become great entrepreneurs and executives, but tremendous athleticism only opens a door. Staying in the room requires a willingness to study and learn, to surround yourself with good people of sound mind and judgment.
Otherwise, you wind up at a marketing agency owned by Kanye West with former NFL star Antonio Brown as its president.
I never heard of Donda Sports before learning that its two biggest clients were leaving. Los Angeles Rams star Aaron Donald and Boston Celtics star Jaylen Brown cut ties with the firm Tuesday, the same day Adidas kicked Ye to the curb for talking crazy.
“The recent comments and displays of hate and anti-semitism are the exact opposite of how we choose to live our lives and raise our children,” Donald and his wife, Erica, said in a statement. “…We do not feel our beliefs, voices and actions belong anywhere near a space that misrepresents and oppresses people of any background, ethnicity or race.”
Jaylen Brown made his announcement minutes later, one day after initially saying he’d stay with Donda Sports.
“In the past 24 hours, I’ve been able to reflect and better understand how my previous statements lack clarity in expressing my stance against recent insensitive public remarks and actions,” Brown said in a statement. “For that, I apologize. …I have always, and will always, continue to stand strongly against any antisemitism, hate speech, misrepresentation, and oppressive rhetoric of any kind.”
Donda Sports was founded in early 2020 as Ye sought to enter sports agency. According to a statement on Twitter, the company is a “limitless organization centered on professional and wellness support in equal measure with the ambition to work with athletes across all genders, divisions and sports.” The firm’s LinkedIn page lists eight employees, with titles that include chief operating officer and chief legal/marketing officer.
But would-be clients should’ve automatically signed elsewhere based on a prominent officer (not listed on LinkedIn) who just reaffirmed his commitment as company president.
“I remain true to the mission of Donda and our amazing staff and community,” Antonio Brown said Tuesday in a statement. “I remain dedicated to helping to clarify statements taken out of proportion by the media. I remain committed to bringing new ideas, experiences, and designs to our world. I remain in support of the humanity that is Ye.”
Sorry, but it’s impossible to take a sports agency seriously when the president makes Ye appear stable. AB says Ye’s comments have been taken out of proportion. Are we sure he doesn’t mean blown out of context? There’s no telling what manner of folly floats through his head, which I guess makes him ideal for Ye.
A veteran of nine NFL seasons, Donald is old enough to know better at 31. Younger athletes might be forgiven for swallowing the babble of faux intellectuals like Ye and AB. Jaylen Brown, 26, has shown himself to be an intelligent and conscientious fighter for social justice and charitable endeavors.
But neither athlete was wise or strong enough to resist the star power atop Donda Sports.
They’re not alone. Unfortunately, too many folks in our celebrity-obsessed society are blinded by fame in sports and entertainment, subsequently giving outsized attention to dolts like Herschel Walker and rapper Killer Mike. That’s not to suggest athletes and performers should be pigeonholed and dismissed when discussions turn toward weighty matters. But being famous can’t be their only qualification—unless we want more thought leaders like Stacey Dash.
“I now recognized that there are times where my voice and position can’t coexist in spaces that don’t correspond with my stance or values,” Jaylen Brown said. “And, for that reason, I am terminating my association with Donda Sports.”
Nothing about Ye’s anti-Black diatribes and fashion choices correspond with a proper stance and values in fighting white supremacy. His sports agency was doomed from the start, another domino waiting to fall as he created chaos. AB’s presence on the org chart simply confirmed the obvious.
Donda Sports could never be taken seriously. Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown learned the hard way. Let that be a lesson for other athletes in the age of empowerment: Choose your associates carefully and stay away from ignorant narcissists.
Deron Snyder, from Brooklyn, is an award-winning columnist who lives near D.C. and pledged Alpha at HU-You Know! He’s reaching high, lying low, moving on, pushing off, keeping up, and throwing down. Got it? Get more at blackdoorventures.com/deron.
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