|Snoop Dogg hopes to provide a gateway for young athletes seeking entertainment deals.
The entertainer, along with childhood friend Willie McGinest -- currently a linebacker with the National Football League's New England Patriots -- and Mr. McGinest's agent, Gary Uberstine, is forming a new sports marketing company called Icon Sports & Entertainment.
True story. Or, as Snoop might say, Fo' shizzle.
The firm, Mr. McGinest said, will serve as a "launching pad to get a lot of young athletes into the world of entertainment."
Mr. Uberstine is the president of his own agency, Premier Sports Management, based in the Las Vegas suburb of Henderson, Nev. It's possible that firm could be folded into Icon Sports & Entertainment, but his office said details are still being worked out and it would take another couple of weeks before official papers were filed.
Among those details is the name -- which is already taken: A New York-based company called Icon Sports & Entertainment works to match blue-chip marketers with athletes and celebrities.
Still, the idea of hatching a new firm and having Snoop Dogg as the gatekeeper for players hoping to make appearances in movies, commercials or videos will certainly appeal to young athletes.
"It's a great move," said the chairman of a rival sports marketing firm. "I mean, you're talking about a guy who has transcended the entertainment industry on so many levels."
Indeed, Snoop Dogg has not only become one of the most versatile entertainers today, he appears to be bulletproof in his choices. His language on some of his early rap records was considered vulgar and, just three years ago, Snoop produced "Doggystyle," an XXX-rated video shot with hand-picked porn stars at his home. Yet his crossover appeal is considered attractive enough to appear on "Sesame Street" and, earlier this year, to co-star with former Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca in a humorous spot for the car company in which the two men are golfing and Snoop is talking in his slang -- such as Fo' shizzle, his term for "For sure."
Snoop Dogg (real name: Calvin Broadus) is a huge football fan who not only is a ubiquitous presence on the sidelines at University of Southern California games, he also started his own youth football league in Los Angeles and coached his son's team. In fact, he is soon to begin a feature film called "Coach Snoop," based on his experiences coaching kids.
But neither Snoop, who could not be reached for comment, nor Mr. McGinest plan to become certified agents. That is, they will not represent athletes in contract negotiations with the various leagues, which is probably a good thing given the last time a rapper tried to act as an agent. In 1999, Ricky Williams came out of the University of Texas and was drafted in the first round by the New Orleans Saints. The flashy running back had just won the Heisman Trophy, college football's symbol of yearly individual supremacy, and he hired rapper Master P as his agent. Master P, aka Percy Miller, had just formed his own sports agency, No Limit Sports.
It was a disaster.
Master P negotiated a seven-year, $68 million contract for Mr. Williams, but the bulk of the money was based on the running back reaching certain incentives on the field -- including rushing for 1,600 yards a season, a virtually unheard of number for a rookie and a goal almost impossible to reach given the Saints' woeful situation at the time.
Mr. Williams never reached that goal and later dumped Master P, as did several other clients, forcing the rapper to shutter his agency.
That will apparently not be the case with Snoop Dogg. Contract negotiations will be handled by Mr. Uberstine, one of the most respected agents in the business who keeps a short client list in order to provide better service. Short, but impressive. In addition to Mr. McGinest, a member of a team that has won three Super Bowls in the last four years, Mr. Uberstine also represents fellow NFL stars Troy Brown, Keenan McCardell and Jimmy Smith, as well as University of Southern California football coach Pete Carroll.
Snoop and Mr. McGinest will handle the entertainment end. Mr. McGinest, who grew up with Snoop in Long Beach, Calif., has already dabbled in the entertainment industry, owning a record company called 55 Entertainment. It is not known if Mr. McGinest will fold that company into the new venture with Snoop Dogg and Mr. Uberstine.
Snoop Dogg burst on the scene in 1992, rapping for Dr. Dre on Dre's seminal rap album "The Chronic." A year later, Snoop broke out with his own solo effort, "Doggystyle," which shot to No. 1 on the Billboard charts. In the past 12 years, he has become the most "well-connected" rapper of all time based on a study of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, a study based on album sales and the collaborations he has made so far.
Snoop has also appeared in more than 20 feature films, including his role as Huggy Bear in the 2004 remake of "Starsky and Hutch."