Jay-Z, I Can’t Help But Feel a Little Dodgy about this New NFL Deal

So, Jay-Z made a multi-year deal with the NFL that has people doing some serious talking this week. His entertainment company Roc Nation will help the NFL choose performers at league events, and help the organization’s social justice efforts.

I’m not one to follow the crowd by any means, but on this one I’m leaning toward the camp criticizing Mr. Carter for not acknowledging Colin Kaepernick and the wide spread impact he had on the NFL.

You broker a deal with a national organization that has serious diversity and race issues, but the face of the most recent movement involving that organization doesn’t play a role? You couldn’t even take the time to craft something that would help us, the general public, understand what’s taken place? It doesn’t make sense.

Not that Jay-Z is in the habit of explaining himself. Nor should he be. But surely this is a special situation? Unless, it’s really what people say: Jay’s all about the Benjamins on this one.

I seriously don’t want to think of him in such an opportunistic fashion. Not because I’m personally invested in this rich, black man who I’ve never met, but because it calls into question the integrity of one of the icons in the black community.

Whew. That was actually a tough sentence for me to write. But forgive me. I’ve been more sensitive to black leadership since Nipsey was killed.

No one would deny that Jay-Z has done a lot for the black community. He’s walked that fine line between social consciousness and capitalism very well. But how can we not raise a brow at this? He said:

“… everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying [in Kaepernick’s underlying message]. So what are we gonna do? … [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job.”

Dude. That’s not enough.

I know he’s a businessman. A really good one. Part of being a good businessman is capitalizing on opportunities. But this is more complicated. This deserves more care. Unless he’s so high up now that public opinion doesn’t matter to him at all? I don’t want to believe that either.

I mean, this situation is not all or nothing. This isn’t a movie where the bad guy – who the writers have done an excellent job of making you feel sympathy for – still has to be punished and/or sacrificed for the audience to be satisfied with the story. Is it?

Even if there’s something great in the works, and this deal will truly benefit people of color in a significant way, it seems quite callous, no, quite careless, even flippant and terribly easy for him to dismiss Kaepernick. Yes, Kaep’s just one man, and if it’s a choice between employment for many people of color vs just Colin, Kaep himself likely would choose the former. But this can’t be that cut and dried. It’s too dangerous.

Colin Kaepernick is the face of something huge, something meaningful. He stood up, or kneeled down, to fight systemic police brutality and murder of African-Americans, and he lost his career. How and when did his sacrifice become so disposable, so easily dismissed? He’s not the first to do so by any means. But not being the first to lose your job in support of your beliefs doesn’t make what he did any less significant.

Look at it this way. If you’re Jay-Z, and you’re in a position strong enough to get millions from the NFL, what’s one concession? As someone who works in branding, it would only be a benefit to the NFL to involve Kaepernick in this deal – in the social justice realm if no where else.

Yes, there would be some detractors. Some people would be royally pissed at any concession for the former quarterback. But Nike proved that when it comes down to hard dollars, the general public supports the position that supports Colin. Their recent move to employ him as an ambassador was extremely profitable, and the NFL wasn’t created solely for love of football, was it?

Moves to benefit a greater good must often be weighted with the practicality of making money. That’s just the game. I didn’t make the rules, but I absolutely advocate always playing to win.

Don’t get me wrong. When I said concession just now, I’m not trying to marginalize Kaep’s contribution in any way. Nor do I mean to turn him into an afterthought. But, at the risk of repeating myself, I just don’t see how Jay-Z can make this deal, and not only is Kaepernick nowhere in it, he didn’t really acknowledge him much at all.

Am I missing something? I feel like I need more information. Like, maybe there’s a lot of stuff that we don’t know that went down behind the scenes? For instance, the NFL is petty enough to make it a condition of the deal that Kaepernick not be involved in any way. If he was, they’d owe him a big old apology wouldn’t they? And that’s not all.

Maybe Jay-Z is taking one for the team now – since his credibility and reputation are currently taking a battering in the media, with a huge chunk of his fan base questioning his actions and motivation with this deal – in order to gain the power and position to make a difference later. After all, it’s not like he hasn’t used his money in the past to help Black bodies fight oppression.

I really, really want to believe that’s what this is, that there’s a bigger picture here. That this isn’t all about money, and Jay-Z isn’t actually as hypocritical as he appears. I’ve got my fingers, eyes, toes and everything else crossed that later we all have to eat our words because he does something truly great for black people.

But we’ll have to wait and see if that’s the case, won’t we? He talked about the need for next steps, for actionable items. There was also news released that he plans to purchase significant ownership interest in an undisclosed NFL team. I know I’ll be watching with considerable interest to learn what those steps and items turn out to be.

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