By: Lamonte Thomas
Headline Photo Credit: TMZ.com
The NFL is a multi-billion dollar industry that has been surrounded with its lackluster humanity pertaining to social injustice and the nation’s declare for reform. At the center of the league’s scar is the open wound from what most know as “the banishment” of Colin Kaepernick, former San Francisco quarterback who protested against police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. Kaepernick remains unsigned in the NFL, though he and Eric Reid (who also knelt in protest) settled with the NFL in court for $10 million as a result of a collusion case they filed on the league. Though NFL stakeholders are divided on Kaepernick and whether owners should give him a shot, the existential conversation of social injustice stands in the face of America whenever Kaep’s decision to take a knee is mentioned. On Wednesday, August 14, music mogul (and prominent figure in the social injustice movement) Jay-Z announced a highly unexpected partnership between his Roc-Nation Management business and the sports conglomerate that is the National Football League at the aforementioned’s headquarters in New York.
The deal comes with many suspicions from the very people who stand behind Kaepernick, who are curious to know how Jay plans to improve the league’s “Inspire Change Program” as mentioned in the deal. Jay-Z has been an activist in the realm of social injustice– including contributing to productions of documentaries on Kalief Browder and Trayvon Martin who were wrongfully imprisoned and fatally shot by the police, respectively. Rap’s first billionaire has consistently been an advocate to oppose the injustices against the genre’s artists such as Meek Mill and 21 Savage; in addition to publicly speaking praise to Kaepernick–even calling him a symbol for social change as important as Muhammad Ali. What raises eyebrows about the NFL/Roc-Nation partnership is whether or not Jay-Z is lobbying to Roger Goodell and the NFL owners to end Kaepernick’s plight? Or whether Colin K. will be included in these strategies at all– while ‘Hov’ and the league’s partnership arm exchange money to go along with the Most Valuable PR maneuver yielded by the shield.
Besides his insurmountable capitalist foundation (let’s call it the Blueprint), what makes Jay-Z’s professional career so enchanting is the way his money moves walk parallel to his pro-culture convictions. Once when performing on SNL Jay wore a Kaepernick Jersey and rapped, “I said no to the Super Bowl, You need me I don’t need you’..Tell the NFL we in stadiums too” Now as part of the partnership, Roc-Nation will give consultation to the NFL to select artists for the biggest spectacle’s halftime music performance. The Hip-Hop mogul will be working with the league’s Inspire Change program to select inspirational tracks with a positive message during TV content. When processing this idea the artist’s lyrics from “Family Feud” comes to mind: “If anybody getting handsome checks it should be us!” His next line explains his maturity to gaining wealth and perhaps his responsibility to the communities he aims to help today: F* rap, crack cocaine! Nah, We did that, black-owned things!!” Perhaps Jay’s intentions in this partnership are just as ambitious as the rest of his professional endeavors– a corporate move to become an NFL owner. With the ideal scenario in fruition, instead of wearing Kaep’s jersey after his exile, he could provide him one with a contract and roster spot. Kaepernick and his supporters, however, may have to accept that his career will serve as the Crispus Attucks of the movement–and by the time Jay is voted into ownership by the current owners (24 of 32 votes) Kaep will still be looking in from the outside.
Another aspect of the NFL/Roc-Nation partnership will include a segment entitled “Beyond the Field”, which may include player views on multiple issues, not to omit social injustice and a much needed reform of the justice system. Though the deal appears to have an offense (Jay) and defense (Inspire Change Program), it’s still missing quarterback #7. When asked if he would be opposed to player protests in light of the new deal with the NFL, Jay-Z responded, “I support protesting across the board…” He went on to say, “Now that we all know what’s going on, what are we going to do? Because the kneeling wasn’t about a job, it was about injustice.”
Time will only tell what impact the NFL/Roc-Nation partnership has on the league’s shameful social reform reputation, and also Jay-Z’s legacy. He once rapped on the Blueprint 3 “I’m on the practice field doing 2-a-days so I don’t drop the ball when it’s threw my way.” Though it’s unclear if this deal is indeed his “Super Bowl Goals” one thing is for sure– Kaepernick’s last NFL pass is definitely headed his direction. Every major social reform had its steps to change: Brown vs Board of Education had its second ruling in 1955 that encouraged desegregation of schools “with deliberate speed”. Heck the 13th amendment that abolished slavery (1865) wasn’t officially ratified in Mississippi until 1995!! https://www.cbsnews.com/news/after-148-years-mississippi-finally-ratifies-13th-amendment-which-banned-slavery/
Two things we can’t ignore about this deal: 1) Kaepernick is still not signed by a NFL team and 2) Both Jay-Z and the NFL are being paid handsomely as a result. Supporters of Jay-Z and Kaepernick want to know: Is this about dollars or about change?