The culture was shaken this past week when Roc Nation owner Jay-Z and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell announced a new partnership. The aftereffects caused flooded timeline that created a reaction series of WTFs. According to the Wall Street Journal “Roc Nation will also expand and play an integral role in the NFL’s entertainment operations—not just the halftime show, but also the production and distribution of other new football-related content together on streaming services. That could include original music, in addition to podcasts for players to voice their opinions on social and cultural issues that are important to them.” What added more fuel to the controversial fire was the absence of QB Colin Kaepernick, who since 2016 has been in NFL exile because of his refusal to stand during the National Anthem. Kaep stated that his action was because of the U.S. racially oppressed mistreatment of black people. Kaepernick’s kneel also birthed a national debate amongst fans and several NFL boycotts. Hence why many skeptics are yelling “FOUL,” and tagging the word “sellout” to Jay-Z’s legacy. The legendary MC who once rapped: “I said no to the Super Bowl/ You need me, I don’t need you/ Every night we in the endzone/ Tell the NFL we in stadiums too,” unfortunately delivered a huge backhand to any optimism for real change.
The Jay Z and NFL deal is a bad look because unfortunately we as black people have seen this before. Countless times in the past that whenever black folks have brought actions behind their voiced concern against injustice, the opposition appoints a Front Office negro to calm the protest storm hopefully. During the 2014 Ferguson Uprising response to the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, the Missouri state gov appointed Capt Ron Johnson to be in charge of security because has stated to be “from the community,” failing to mention his past 27 years working as St. Louis resident. Acts like these are a double edge sword because yes representation matters but not if the action itself is just a distraction from community issues.
The absence of Colin Kapernick at the NFL/Roc Nation press conference made the deal lack any real depth. Kaep’s refusal to stand during the Nation Anthem is the entire reasoning for the NFL/Roc Nation partnership, so his absence puts a red stain on the deal itself. How can the public trust that the NFL is capable of real change when the one individual who sparked a movement will not receive any benefit from it? Although Jay Z claims that he talked to Colin, his girlfriend Hot 97 radio personality Nessa has claimed that was false. Jemelle Hill wrote in the Atlantic that an unnamed close source has stated that Jay-Z and Colin have talked, but the conversation was not a pleasant one. Either way, its highlight unlikely the two gentlemen will be having brunch soon. Plus, what we know of the policy for a moment, is stated to offer NFL players a safe place to voice their concerns with social matters with a podcast. In translation is a verbal suggestion box that most bosses ignore most while punishing employees for their comments with layoffs. Jay-Z’s added “It’s time to move on” type commentary comes off as dismissive. A better reality-based response would have been if he started his comment with “Hey, I know this looks crazy….” Delivery is key, and if this NFL/Roc Nation deal is supposed to be a representation of change then it’s best moving forward that Jay Z doesn’t come off with a back-in-the-day Reasonable Doubt “F— you, pay me” type attitude.