IT was not just fans, celebs and Prime Minister Boris Johnson who thanked Marcus Rashford for saving free school meals – rapper Jay-Z must have been pretty pleased too.
The hip-hop mogul is now the 22-year-old star’s manager after mentoring him for months in the run-up to Rashford forcing the Government into making its big U-turn.
Roc Nation, the £75million management agency founded by Jay-Z, last week announced it had signed the young England player.
But the billionaire businessman is not concerned with Marcus’s football career.
He is more interested in turning him into a campaigner on the world stage.
Jay-Z wooed Marcus before lockdown, flying him to Miami in February to watch the Super Bowl.
Marcus took along his siblings Dwaine Maynard, 36, and Dane Rashford, 27, who have guided his football career through their firm DN May Sports Management.
But the event also gave 50-year-old Jay-Z a chance to wow Marcus with his company’s humanitarian work.
In exchange for Jay-Z producing the Super Bowl’s half-time show, the NFL pledged $100million over ten years to social-justice causes.
Now Roc Nation Sports has confirmed it has signed Marcus — but his brothers will still handle his football career, while the offshoot of Jay-Z’s management firm will deal with his activities off the field.
Michael Yormark, president of Roc Nation Sports International, said: “We don’t really consider ourselves a traditional agency. We really are a movement.”
Back in the UK, and with the country hit by Covid-19, the newly formed team went into action.
Rashford set about backing charity FareShare, setting himself a target of raising £100,000 to provide 400,000 meals for those in need.
The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked
By June he had drummed up £20million, which will feed three million people across the UK.
He was inspired to help out by his own tough upbringing in Wythenshawe, Manchester, where he grew up with his two brothers, sisters Chantelle, 38, and Claire, 34, and mum Melanie.
When he heard the Government was axing £15-a-week food vouchers throughout the school summer holidays, Marcus spoke up.
In an open letter to MPs on June 14, he wrote: “The system was not built for families like mine to succeed, regardless of how hard my mum worked.
“As a family, we relied on breakfast clubs, free school meals, and the kind actions of neighbours and coaches.”
The Government had insisted they could not afford to provide the vouchers through the summer.
But PM Boris changed his mind two days after the player wrote to MPs, and said of Marcus: “I thank him for what he’s done.”
Roc Nation director Kelly Hogarth said: “This was a 22-year-old young man who was saying, ‘No child should be going hungry in this country’.
“He was able to resonate with so many people by just being himself.”
Jay-Z’s company, which he founded in 2008, has offices in New York, LA, Nashville and London.
In 2013 the firm branched out to represent sports stars including boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr, Manchester City footballer Kevin De Bruyne, young Chelsea full-back Reece James and Man Utd defender Eric Bailly.
The people we sign — 75 per cent of them at least — grew up in poverty
The company says it looks for talent from disadvantaged backgrounds.
Jay-Z said: “The people we sign — 75 per cent of them at least — grew up in poverty.
“When one of us gets signed, it doesn’t end our connection to the ’hood. Our lives are still there. Our cousin still needs a lawyer, our mother still can’t make the rent. This is real life.”
Like Marcus, Jay-Z grew up in poverty and was raised by single mother Gloria in Brooklyn, New York.
During the crack epidemic in the 1980s, he admits he sold the drug as a teen to get by.
The rapper — real name Shawn Carter — said: “Even when I was making terrible decisions, I was making them out of desperation rather than ignorance.”
At the peak of his rap career, with hits Hard Knock Life and 99 Problems, he set up clothing line Rocawear and opened US bar chain 40/40 Club.
In 2003 he set up The Shawn Carter Foundation, which gives college grants to deprived students.
Jay-Z founded Reform with rapper Meek Mill last year, which aims to change the US prison system.
Roc Nation’s philanthropy division Team Roc has assisted clients with their personal causes.
After the death of George Floyd in police custody the company took out full-page adverts in US newspapers quoting Martin Luther King Jr in his memory.
QUIET CHARITY WORK
The company has launched the We The Best Foundation for DJ Khaled, which supports community programmes, and Sharika’s Barefoot Foundation, to provide education programmes in the US and her native Colombia.
In 2012 the firm helped set up Rihanna’s emergency response charity the Clara Lionel Foundation, named after her late gran.
Roc Nation philanthropy exec Towalame Austin said: “There’s so much that people don’t know that Rihanna has done, and she prefers it that way.”
And Jay-Z has no doubt been impressed by modest Marcus’s quiet charity work over the years.
At Christmas, he and his mum helped out homeless charities in Manchester.
After the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing, he visited injured fans in Manchester Children’s Hospital with teammate Jesse Lingard.
While we are yet to see a Marcus Rashford Foundation, there’s no doubt Jay-Z sees the young footie star as a force for good.
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