Jay-Z Touts His NFL Partnership as the Evolution of Colin Kaepernick’s Protests. But Is It?

Photo: Kevin Mazur (Getty Images for Roc Nation)

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m a bit bewildered at Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter’s decision to partner with the NFL.

In case you missed the big news yesterday—which, of course, you didn’t, because you read all about it here at The Root—the man who gave us Blue Ivy, Sir and Rumi announced a multi-year partnership between his Roc Nation empire and the nefarious NFL.

While financial terms have yet to be disclosed, Roc Nation will reportedly “consult on entertainment, including the Super Bowl halftime show, and contribute to the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change.”

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Yes, the same Jay-Z who rocked a Colin Kaepernick jersey during his Saturday Night Live performance in 2017.

Yes, the same Jay-Z who took a shot at the NFL with his “You need me, I don’t need you” quip on 2018’s “Apeshit.”

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Yes, the same Jay-Z who Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid today dismissed as a willing participant in a “disingenuous” ploy “to address social injustice” while the league continues to “collectively blackball Colin.” (Reid would know a thing or two about all of the above considering he not only protested with Kaepernick as his teammate but is still being punished for his decision to continue doing so to this very day.)

So while I’m entirely justified in scratching my head at this news, Jay-Z and his brand new BFF Roger Goodell, who just so happens to be the commissioner of the NFL, held a press conference on Wednesday at the Roc Nation offices in New York to explain how their unholy alliance came to be.

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And yes, Colin Kaepernick came up a lot.

“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice,” Jay-Z said during a press conference where The Root was present. “In that case, this is the success. This is the next thing. There’s two parts to a protest. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual say, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’”

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Those inspired words came in response to Jay-Z being asked how he could partner with the NFL to address the same issues keeping Kaepernick blacklisted from the league, and honestly, I think it’s a bullshit answer. In fact, I would love to hear Kaepernick’s opinion on this partnership, considering that all parties involved—don’t forget Van Jones—are clearly cashing out from his sacrifice and especially since Jay-Z has been adamant during this process that he’s spoken with the exiled quarterback, despite media personality Nessa Diab’s assertions to the contrary.

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SPOILER ALERT: Nessa is Kaepernick’s longtime girlfriend. Your girl knows all.

Later during the press conference, when asked what served as the impetus for the unlikely union between the NFL and Roc Nation, Jay-Z explained how his criminal justice work with New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft sowed the seeds for what would eventually blossom into a lucrative business venture.

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“We’re adults at this point,” the 49-year-old mogul, born Shawn Carter, said. “The only way things are going to move forward is through conversations. And I guess my speaking out and creating conversation [led] to a partnership.”

Photo: Kevin Mazur (Getty Images for Roc Nation)

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So with social justice at the crux of this union, what will this quest for meaningful social change entail? According to Goodell, the NFL is merely following the lead of its players.

“We support our players in trying to inspire change,” Goodell said during the press conference. “To work with them on criminal justice education and better relationships with law enforcement in our communities. Those are the types of things that our players have identified as areas we need to move forward on.”

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To that end, The Root’s Editor-in-Chief Danielle Belton asked about an initiative built around community and policing, to which Goodell responded, “I’ve participated in some of those and they’ve been very effective. What we’ve actually done with Kenny Stills and several [members of the Miami] Dolphins is we went into the Miami community […] and we had a couple of events. We had dialogues, we shared each other’s perspectives and it was really possible. I think our players want to do that.”

In all, with his vague responses, political correctness and questionable motives in light of his about-face during Colin Kaepernick’s exile, Jay-Z didn’t do a particularly good job at differentiating himself from the corporate shills that we’ve historically lambasted as a community. One of the best examples of this occurred when he was asked if he would kneel or stand during the National Anthem in light of his new partnership with the NFL.

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“I think we’re past kneeling,” Jay-Z answered, almost in disbelief at the question. “I think it’s time for action.”

But questions remain: At what cost? And who do those actions benefit?

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