By Omar Tyree
As an African-American entrepreneur who has made a living writing books under contracts, the ongoing contract disputes and negotiations between star wide receiver Dez Bryant and billionaire Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones presents a longstanding quagmire.
After recently firing his African-American sports agent, Eugene Parker, to sign up with Roc Nation Sports, formed by popular music mogul Shawn “Jay Z” Carter, Dez Bryant has said that he wants to not only secure his football career with the Cowboys, but become an “icon” like his idol and mentor, Michael Jordan. Bryant presently has a 3-year endorsement deal with the Jordan Brand and expects to land several more endorsements deals while under the guidance of Roc Nation.
The problem is, Jerry “Big Money” Jones, does not know or trust doing business with the upstart agency of Roc Nation, and he has been very vocal about it. In effect, Jones has basically told Bryant, “You go back to my boy Eugene to represent you on this deal or else.”
Well, if that ain’t that “old boys’ club” flexing its economic muscles, I don’t know what is. Now I understand that Eugene Parker is a Black businessman who has been able to cut great deals with the club However, the Black community has been forced into these type of one-way relationships with the White power structure forever. No offense to Parker, but they give one Black man the keys to the car and then tell the rest us that he’s the only one they trust to drive.
It’s offensive that Jones would even think to tell Dez Bryant who should represent him at the bargaining table. He can advise the young as an older businessman and a concerned friend, if that’s what he is, but to torpedo negotiations based on his selection of representation sounds like something straight out the 1950s, particularly when the persona making the decision is Black.
Mainstream America hates us using the so-called “race card” to explain the history and ongoing imbalances of business and professional relations but when it looks like a spade, walks like spade and talks like a spade, it usually is a spade.
Now, I’m not calling Jerry Jones a racist; I don’t believe that he is. But I wonder if Jones would be so adamant about not dealing with Roc Nation Sports had the upstart agency been formed by a young, popular White man who could remind him of himself instead of a young, Black and ambitious rapper out of the Brooklyn projects?
Oftentimes, the disconnect between White culture and Black culture can land a Black man or woman out of deal, the same way it lands them out of executive positions, head coaching jobs, investment opportunities, business loans and basic job promotions. But somehow, someway, you when you have a room full of White men – more often than not – they are miraculously able to work everything out. And trust me, all White men don’t agree or get along, either. Nevertheless, they do respect and understand each other enough to do business.
This same code of respect and understanding between White men – the old boys’ club – continues to be an issue for African-Americans, other people of color and women. And instead of corporate America making the effort to bridge the gaps of comprehension, they often come up with excuses. The number one excuse being that we are unqualified. Well, if a quarterback is never allowed into the game to throw a pass, how do you know what he’s capable of?
Then they start taking shots at our character. So now we hear how the Cowboys are concerned about Dez Bryant’s off-field behavior, including a recently missed curfew in London and various miscellaneous reports from his home in Texas. However, before this contract standoff arose, Bryant had made great strides in his maturity, becoming the emotional leader of the team, much like Michael Irvin from the 1990s Cowboys.
At the end of the day, we are speaking about one man’s worth being determined by another man, as well as by his representation. As a top-five rated wide receiver in the NFL, Bryant is expected to make anywhere from $12 million to $16 million a year on his next contract. But we’ll soon see if he’s still in Dallas and or he takes his talents elsewhere.
Omar Tyree is a New York Times bestselling author, an NAACP Image Award winner for Outstanding Fiction and a professional journalist. Contact him at www.OmarTyree.com.