Jay-Z and the NFL: Unreasonable Doubt

“First they love you, then they hate you, then they love you again.”

-Jay Z “Meet the Parents”

There is probably no other fitting way to describe Jay-Z, and the way society treats its own heroes. This was the intro to one of my favorite Jay-Z songs, “Meet The Parents,” back in 2001. In hindsight, it’s an accurate depiction of how we love to seepeople rise to the top, just to watch their downfall. Shawn Carter, better known as Jay-Z, is unfortunately going through one of those hate filled phases. 

NEW YORK, NEW YORK – AUGUST 14: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

On August 13th, Jay-Z and NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, announced that Jay-Z’s entertainment company Roc Nation reached an agreement to form a partnership for all of the NFL’s major events. Among the NFL events that Roc Nation will be heading is the Super Bowl, which is what makes an already sticky situation even stickier. 

As you may recall, there’s been a mass boycott of the NFL within the black community ever since Colin Kaepernick was believed to be blackballed back in 2017. Kaepernick’s peaceful protests of kneeling during the U.S. national anthem led NFL owners to not sign him to a team to this very day. The 31-year-old former quarterback filed a lawsuit against the NFL for collusion, in which he settled out of court for an undisclosed amount of money. The NFL’s willingness to settle out of court with Kaepernick was viewed by the court of public opinion, particularly in the black community, as an admission of guilt. So one would think that although Kaepernick didn’t get signed to a team, him reaching a settlement meant the boycotts could end. 

Apparently not. 

The Roc Nation and NFL partnership has some how managed to become something I’m sure Jay-Z nor Goodell intended. The deal has caused several celebrities and NFL players to become critical of the deal on Jay-Z’s end. Some have gone so far as to call him a “hypocrite,” and a “sellout” There’s literally blogs, tweets, and endless “fake deep,” Facebook posts talking about how Jay-Z’s a sellout. When literally six months ago, he could do no wrong. 

Let’s take a trip down recent memory lane to February. When Rapper, 21 Savage, was taken into Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody and detained. Jay-Z hired a lawyer to work on the case and subsequently got him released. He effectively spearheaded the #FreeMeekMill campaign a little more than a year ago as well. And upon Meek Mill’s release Jay-Z and Meek Mill launched the REFORM Alliance, geared towards “advancing criminal justice reform and eliminating outdated laws that perpetuate injustice, starting with probation and parole.” 

Just to name a few.

Now, all of a sudden this same guy is a sellout? Despite the aforementioned efforts and the countless other millions of dollars that both he and his wife Beyonce’ have donated to legit charities, scholarship funds, etc. It just doesn’t add up to me. 

I was however disappointed with the way he worded part of his statement about the partnership on the NFL Network, but it’s very dangerous to only take one part of someone’s statement and use it to create a certain narrative. “I think we’ve moved past kneeling…” that looks and sounds bad (if you never heard the rest of the conversation). But then he continued to say, “I think it’s time for action,” people are really acting like that part of the statement was never mentioned.

SANTA CLARA, CA – OCTOBER 23: Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks in to the stadium prior to their NFL game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers at Levi’s Stadium on October 23, 2016 in Santa Clara, California. (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)

The same people are also ignoring the comments Jay-Z made about Kaepernick’s contribution to raising awareness to police brutality. In the presser following the announcement on the NFL Network, Jay-Z said:, “I’m not minimizing [protests] because that has to happen, that’s a necessary part of the process. And now we all know what’s going on. What are we going to do? How are we gonna stop, because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.” He continued: “Let me bring attention to injustice. Everyone’s saying, ‘How are you going forward if Kaepernick doesn’t have a job.’ This wasn’t about him having a job. That became a part of the discussion. He was kneeling to bring attention to injustice. We know what it is. Now how do we address the injustice?” 

The biggest issue I have with this whole ordeal is that we in the black community have gone from being the ones reiterating what the issue is, to now allowing the issue of police brutality to become secondary. This was not what was supposed to happen. We have now become the very thing that we fought so hard against. We, in the black community can not ever lose sight of the real issues; police brutality and the social injustice that comes from systemic racism. 

I have no quarrels with Jay-Z and the NFL’s partnership whatsoever. What I have a problem with is this dismissive society that we have created and the cancel culture. Y’all canceled every damn human being with any kind of fame, it’s way beyond ridiculous at this point. When you’re considering canceling a well known philanthropist and activist, I can’t jump on board. Instead of canceling him, how about waiting to see what’s going to come from it? I understand the frustration from Kaepernick, if there’s truly any frustration. But if you watched any NFL games, played or purchased Madden, bought any NFL apparel, played fantasy football, since Kaepernick has been out of the NFL. You can’t say ANYTHING! 

I somewhat boycotted the last two years by only watching my favorite team, even after the Kaep lawsuit was over I only watched the Chicago Bears games. We all want Kaepernick to be in an NFL uniform again, right? But if that were to happen, would we then call him a sellout for accepting a job with a company that blackballed him for his protest? I don’t understand the direction we’re supposed to be going in, but maybe it’s just not for me to understand. All I can say is if anyone has earned the right to have us not be so critical initially, it’s Jay-Z. I don’t understand how we’re still doubting his commitment to the cause, to the community, and to humanity. Let’s not be so quick to pass judgment, and just watch Hov work. 

-Blake Holmes