A lot of people have A LOT to say about this business deal Jay-Z made with the NFL, announced this week. Jay-Z and his his entertainment company, ROC Nation, is now partnering with the football league (that has blackballed Colin Kaepernick) to, “advise on selecting artists for major NFL performances like the Super Bowl.” The deal allegedly encompasses more, though. According to Vox:
While the deal effectively gives Jay-Z a major role in developing one of the most-watched concerts in the country, it also includes a social justice partnership between the rapper and the NFL. Roc Nation, the NFL adds, will play an important role in the NFL’s recently launched “Inspire Change” initiative, a collaboration between the NFL and the Players Coalition, a group of NFL players seeking to advance social and racial justice. The initiative focuses on three causes in particular: “education and economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform.”
On the surface, what's the problem, right? Sounds great! Jay-Z has a long resumé of social justice AND entertainment work to make sure Black musicians and artists are represented fairly, and he can say he's advancing causes important to the Black community. That was certainly the viewpoint of Michael Eric Dyson yesterday on CNN, where he made fiery arguments against those calling Jay-Z a sell-out.
But many, many other Black voices are rising to speak either caution or condemnation about this move. The brilliant Jemele Hill doesn't think he's a sell-out, but she took Jay-Z to task for giving cover to the NFL for seeming to pay lip service to social injustice while glossing over the fact that Colin Kaepernick is still being punished for taking a knee. In her Atlantic piece, "Jay-Z Helped The NFL Banish Colin Kaepernick," Hill wrote:
This alliance plays right into the NFL’s hands, because the league seems determined to banish any memory of Kaepernick with its recent social-justice efforts—even though it’s likely that Jay-Z and the NFL wouldn’t even be entering into this arrangement if Kaepernick hadn’t taken a knee in 2016.
The late Houston Texans owner Bob McNair told the players who were present at the meeting, “You fellas need to ask your compadres, ‘Fellas, stop that other business. Let’s go out and do something that really produces positive results, and we’ll help you.’”
By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy. Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.
It doesn’t matter whom the NFL partners with, or how much money it pours into social-justice causes. The league’s actions come off as disingenuous because Kaepernick remains unemployed as a result of a peaceful protest. How can the NFL be taken seriously as a social-justice champion when it blackballed a player who stood up for equality?
If you want a cogent and crystal clear explanation of why Kaepernick's "settlement" of his lawsuit against the NFL was far from "settling," or god-forbid, "selling out," as I've heard some say, read this legal master class by Elie Mystal.
In the AM Joy clip at the top of this post, Jamil Smith had the harshest words for Jay-Z AND the NFL, but even those were tempered with a bit of a "wait-and-see" caveat.
The host, Ayman Mohyeldin, played Carolina Panther Eric Reid's response to Jay-Z's saying they were "past kneeling," and Reid was on fire. He called it "asinine," and asked when Jay-Z ever took a knee. "Players' Coalition 2.0. He got paid to take the bullets he's taking now, because we're not having it," Reid said.
Mohyeldin wondered what was in it for Jay-Z, since he is nearly a billionaire, and that it is clearly not about the money. Forbes writer Terence Moore suggested that perhaps he was in it for an NFL franchise, since according to TMZ, that's something the NFL has offered him.
Shireen Mitchell, founder of Stop Online Violence Against Women, activist, and a regular guest on AM Joy had this to say about the money: "BOTH of them have money. This is NOT about the money. This is about owning blackness."