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Last week the NFL announced a partnership with Roc Nation, the company founded by rapper and businessman Jay-Z. As part of the deal, Roc Nation will help produce musical performances at major NFL events, like the Super Bowl. The company will also “amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”
“This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America,” Jay-Z said in statement. The rapper also intends to become a part owner of an NFL team, according to reports.
The agreement was announced three years to the day after then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first started protesting what he calls “systemic oppression” of minorities by refusing to stand for the national anthem before games.
Kaepernick, who has been out of the NFL since 2017, has been the target of intense criticism as a result of his protests. He also had many vocal supporters — including Jay-Z. The rapper wore a custom Kaepernick jersey while performing on “Saturday Night Live” and dedicated a song to the quarterback during a concert.
Why there’s debate:
Many of Kaepernick’s supporters say Jay-Z is betraying the social justice mission he previously supported by partnering with the NFL. The league is seen by some as “blackballing” the quarterback because of his political views. Eric Reid, a former Kaepernick teammate who joined him in kneeling during the anthem, accused Jay-Z of making “a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin.”
Others argue that the deal is a natural extension of the work Kaepernick has done in compelling the NFL to taking social justice seriously. “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action,” Jay-Z said.
Some have also expressed the belief that Jay-Z is free to make whatever business decisions benefit him and his company, regardless of Kaepernick’s situation.
Kaepernick released a workout video showing that he was in shape and “still ready” to return to the NFL. There is speculation that Jay-Z’s involvement with the NFL may signal that the quarterback’s absence from the league could end soon. “I feel like Jay-Z can bring back Colin Kaepernick,” rapper Cardi B said. “I feel so. I feel like he has that power.”
Jay-Z should give a more thorough public explanation of his decision-making
“More details are bound to follow on this partnership. And more questions too. None more pressing than the one that asks Jay-Z about how he went from supporting Colin Kaepernick to cutting deals with the league that has been accused of locking him out.” — Charles Robinson, Yahoo Sports
Jay-Z’s motivations don’t matter if his involvement brings results
“If the resources of the most powerful league in the country are utilized to improve the lives of minorities and spur real change in the criminal justice system, does it really matter if the NFL did so for publicity or Jay-Z for money?” — LZ Granderson, Los Angeles Times
Jay-Z may not understand the implications of the partnership
“While Jay’s support for Kaepernick was almost certainly genuine, he is in bed with Kap’s primary enemies, those who fought the hardest to silence him and his message.” — Bomani Jones, The Undefeated
Kaepernick himself has sold out his principles for money
“The problem with viewing the Roc Nation-NFL partnership as this great schism between Kaepernick The Good and Jay-Z The Bad is that Kaepernick himself has already profited from the very same move Jay-Z is using now. The NFL’s exploitation of Jay-Z — the man and the brand and all the signifiers that come along with him — is identical to Nike’s exploitation of Kaepernick in that much-celebrated yet fundamentally repugnant ad campaign last year.” — Billy Haisley, Deadspin
Jay-Z undermines his support for social justice by partnering with the NFL
“Jay-Z can’t stand up for Kaepernick while tucking himself into bed with the NFL. It is disingenuous. It is hypocritical. It is fake.” — Kevin B. Blackistone, Washington Post
Working with the NFL can’t be off-limits forever
“Was Jay-Z supposed to never be involved with the NFL again, even after Kaepernick settled his lawsuit? If Kaepernick and the NFL are done with each other, is everyone who felt sympathy for Kaepernick obliged to participate in a forever boycott of the league?” — Kyle Smith, National Review
Jay-Z deserves the benefit of the doubt
“Let’s at least give Jay-Z the benefit of the doubt here. Let’s see what exactly he has planned as he rolls up his sleeves and prepares to position the most powerful sports league to better assist its players’ efforts to positively affect the lives of the underprivileged in their communities and country.” — Mike Jones, USA Today
The partnership is purely business
“Jay-Z (whose real name is Shawn Carter) is in business to make money, and is really good at it. The NFL is in business to make money, and is really good at it. The reason the deal exists is the same reason that most deals major exist: two for-profit entities see a way to make more profit.” — Stephen L. Carter, Bloomberg
Jay-Z is letting the NFL off the hook for its treatment of Kaepernick
“Jay-Z has given the NFL exactly what it wanted: guilt-free access to black audiences, culture, entertainers, and influencers.” — Jemele Hill, The Atlantic
Jay-Z is putting his ambition over his principles
“None of this is about social justice. …This partnership is happening because Shawn Carter is a billionaire who wants to be an NFL owner, and erasing Colin Kaepernick is the price of admission.” — Dave Zirin, The Nation
The partnership is a logical next step from Kaepernick’s activism
“If Jay-Z decides to collaborate with the NFL and use the strong arm of the NFL to impact communities, disenfranchised communities throughout our nation in a very, very positive way, then excuse me, wasn’t that the goal Colin Kaepernick had?” — Stephen A. Smith, ESPN
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