Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown sent a message by joining Kanye West’s agency

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Before we break our hands and applaud Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown for their false courage in cutting ties with Kanye West’s management group Donda Sports, let’s remember that it wasn’t long ago that the two athletes were in West’s alternate reality lived.

A world where slavery was “a choice” according to the founder of Donda Sports. Keep in mind that this was the 2020 presidential nominee, whose bid was backed by Republican activists and appeared to be an apparent ploy to distract black voters from the Democratic Party — and yet Brown, known for his social activism and advocacy, signed on the choice, still under the point line.

Months before Donald praised the company for its “family” environment, his poster child, now known as Ye, was the same ex-husband who launched a barrage of social media harassment at Kim Kardashian and the man who was her was, had threatened physical violence then dating.

When the two athletes formed an alliance with Ye earlier this year, he was already problematic. Just not enough to dissuade them from seeking the empowerment of greater cultural influence and deeper trading partnerships that might come with that connection. They didn’t think about their corporate responsibility; they thought only of their corporate power.

And so they ignored the red MAGA hat. The wild reports that Yes’s publicist has threatened a Georgia poll worker with jail if she doesn’t confess to allegations of voter fraud. Even the fact that a declared train wreck, Antonio Brown, has been appointed President of Donda Sports. (If Antonio Brown is the leader, are you wondering about the rest of the hierarchy over there: Candace Owens, Chief DEI Officer? Alex Jones, Social Media Manager?)

None of those red flags stopped Boston Celtics forward Jaylen Brown or Donald, the three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year from the Los Angeles Rams and last season’s Super Bowl Champion, from joining in this impending inferno. They still chose Ye.

Aaron Donald and Jaylen Brown are parting ways with Kanye West’s Donda Sports

“I think it’s lit.”

This is how Jaylen Brown described the signing to Donda Sports in a GQ video. Before he was drafted in 2016, A man of many interests, Brown was reportedly called “too smart” for basketball. Following the 2020 killing of George Floyd, Brown then traveled to his home state of Georgia to join the peaceful protests. During the Bubble, he emerged as one of the most vocal players championing social and political activism. Both Brown and Ye are sons of teachers, which Brown says served as a motivating factor in joining Donda Sports. However, there were many other reasons to tread cautiously with Ye recently falsely claiming Floyd’s death was due to a drug overdose and not an officer’s knee on his neck.

It was family that drew Donald, who described his signing with Donda Sports as a “damn good opportunity”. Donald came across as a man who not only cared about the avenues outside of football that would open up for him, but also his wife Erica, who has managed most of his marketing opportunities. Business justice for his wife seemed significant and admirable to those who might look up to Donald.

“To hear the full spectrum of everything that was going on…the family atmosphere that they had at Donda Sports,” Donald told the I Am Athlete podcast in May. “It was child’s play for me.”

However, Donald clearly wasn’t paying attention to Ye’s treatment of his own ex-wife: Ye posted her private messages online, sent unwanted gifts, and was just the toxic ex, disguising creepy behavior as some sort of “love.”

It wasn’t until Ye’s recent verbal attacks on Jews — and his insistence on standing 10 toes down in his stupidity — that Brown and Donald noticed and followed his longest-serving business associates out the door. Balenciaga — Ye has been in a relationship with the luxury apparel and its artistic director since at least 2016 — dumped him. Then Adidas – the first of the popular Yeezy designs to debut in 2015 – gave him the shoe.

Brown and Donald were the next big brands to pull out of their dealings with Ye. And make no mistake, as 21st century athletes, they are small businesses in and of themselves: Aaron Donald Inc. and Jaylen Brown LLC.

Kanye West may have finally reached the point of no return

Like many of her peers, the soccer star and basketball star was trying to build his empire away from the arena. Modern pros no longer need to just peddle sneakers and sugary cereal to raise their profile. Today he is executive producer of a Netflix mini-series. She is the venture capitalist who champions businesses started by people of color. More than any other time in history, athletes are commanding hearty slices of the pie.

In the leagues that Brown and Donald play in, the NBA and NFL, superstars have monetized their fame better than any other American team athlete. According to Forbes, Giannis Antetokounmpo, still one of the most exciting players in the NBA, will make $39.9 million on the court this year. However, with $41.1 million in ad revenue, he’s set to surpass even that massive amount. And in the NFL, Tom Brady will collect $52 million in endorsements compared to $31.9 million from his day job as quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It’s not the billion-dollar annual sales of Gap or Adidas, it’s the athletes’ soaring off-court salaries that demonstrate their cultural and financial clout.

Brown and Donald believed they were amplifying this trend by aligning with Ye.

But on their journey to economic and creative opportunity, they have also given us their priorities. When they severed ties with Donda this week, they made statements about their company values: that anti-Semitism is beyond the borders. When they signed with Donda, they also made statements: that anti-Black rhetoric and destructive domestic behavior are not.

As we have seen, the modern athlete can use their platform to effect change in their leagues and in society at large. So if you’re aiming for more currency, you shouldn’t just follow the steps of any other for-profit business model. They can exercise their power by separating from objectionable partners. But also by avoiding them in the first place.

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