“I said no to the Superbowl. You need me I don’t need you.”
Those were Jay-Z’s own words on the song Apes**t, so you can imagine the collective surprise when it was announced this week that Roc Nation (the management agency Jay-Z founded) will be launching a social justice partnership with the NFL. They will be consulting the on marketing and music events, including the Super Bowl halftime show. This will help the league to bolster its activism initiative and inspire Change. Let’s just say Jay-Z’s 180-degree turn has my neck hurting.
What feels like an additional stab in the back is that it appears though Roc Nation will be profiting off the sacrifice of Colin Kaepernick. The San Francisco 49ers Quarterback who was ‘blacklisted’ from the NFL for kneeling in protest to the way Black & Brown people are being treated across the United States. This is specifically in reference to police brutality. The treatment that he received the from owners is why various artists such as Rhianna and Cardi B refused to take part in the 2018 Superbowl half time show. It is also the reason why artists such as Travis Scott and Chloe x Halle were given flack by the black community for having anything to do with NLF that year.
This would not be the first time the NFL has set up campaigns in an attempt to remove the negative spotlight off themselves. A series of anti-domestic violence campaigns started after Ray Rice caused the league international embarrassment when he beat his fiancee (now wife) to the point of unconsciousness in an elevator in 2014. Initially, Rice had received nothing more than a two-game ban but after TMZ leaked footage of the attack, Rice was released from his team altogether.
This Social Justice Partnership appears to be nothing more than a similar smoke and mirrors tactic from the multibillion-dollar league. It is difficult not to question their motives when you have people like Stephen Ross, owner of the Dolphins, facing huge backlash because it came to light that he was holding a fundraiser for Donald Trump to run again in the 2020 election. Surely if NFL was hellbent on real reform, they would include Kaepernick & Reid, the two who sparked the conversation that there need to social change in the first place?
On his Twitter timeline, Eric Reid retweeted a series of people who did not support Jay-Z’s decision.
The rapper is defending his deal in an interview with the NFL Commissioner. He stated:
“I think we’ve moved past kneeling and I think it’s time to go into actionable items,” Jay-Z said Wednesday at Roc Nation headquarters in New York while seated beside Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner.
He clarified that he didn’t want people to stop protesting, however.
“Kneeling — I know we’re stuck on it because it’s a real thing — but kneeling is a form of protest. I support protest across the board. We need to bring light to the issue. I think everyone knows what the issue is — we’re done with that,” he said.
And though he said he wasn’t trying to minimize the significance of this practice, he asked what the next steps would be.
“How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice,” he said.
One wonders how don’t not how Jay-Z can make such a statement when this deal is surely going to make the rapper millions while Kaepernick is unable to play in the NFL? The union between Roc Nation and the NLF is making many question if the Pro-Black rhetoric that Jay-Z spoke about in his last albums 4:44 and Everything Is Love was a capitalist gimmick.
It would not be right to take away strides that Jay-Z has made so far. Tidal (the rapper’s streaming platform) donated 1.5 million dollars to Black Live Matter in 2016, he produced The Kalief Browder Story for Netflix and he (along with his wife Beyoncé) made generous financial contributions to post bail for Ferguson and Baltimore protestors in 2015. It would be unfair to act as those this deal eradicates all the work Jay-Z has done for the Black community. However, people do maintain the right to raise their eyebrows.
Maybe this is a situation wherein order to make a change, you have to work from the inside. Only time will tell.