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JAY-Z Explains Roc Nation NFL Partnership in the Face of Increasing Backlash

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It is no longer news that rap mogul Jay-Z’s Roc Nation has entered into a deal with the NFL. In a deal announced on Tuesday by the National Football league and Roc Nation, the duo will be collaborating in social programs and entertainment. The label will take the frontline position in coordinating the NFL’s social justice program through entertainment. The deal sees Roc Nation handling NFL’s live music entertainment including the famous Super Bowl halftime show. The label also picks artists that are hired to grace the Super Bowl halftime show and other entertainment events held by the NFL. Songs have already been recorded to help promote the NFL during TV broadcasts. Part of the deal is to produce contents featuring players and artists as well as documentaries on streaming platforms. The NFL seeks to leverage the massive impact of entertainment to spread it’s “Inspire Change” program.

The deal was greeted with a lot of anger and disappointment by fans on social media given that Colin Kaepernick whose issue with the NFL  is seen by many as the most probable reason for such a deal was not carried along. And more importantly, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback remains unemployed for his peaceful protest against police brutality, racism, inequality, and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem. That gesture of his in 2016 inspired other footballers to kneel in protest too.

This was to the chagrin of Donald Trump and the majority of the club owners who happen to be whites and supporters of the president. Trump went further to encourage owners to fire players who joined in the protest. Kaepernick didn’t get a contract renewal with his club and he went further to accuse the NFL and the top echelon of working to keep him unemployed. It was in February of this year that he agreed to settlement deals with the NFL.

Given this background, most of the question during the joint press conference held by Jay-Z and  NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell was mostly on Kaepernick and not the partnership itself. Increasingly Jay-Z and Goodell found themselves on the defensive.

Jay-Z said that the deal had nothing to do with Kaepernick. And when he was asked why the former football player was not carried along he said “You’d have to ask him. I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.”

He went further to say that he had a conversation with Kaepernick about the partnership but would not divulge the details.

When asked on what his views on players kneeling to protest were he said: “I think we’ve moved past kneeling and I think it’s time to go into actionable items.”

The grammy award winner went further by saying “No, I don’t want people to stop protesting at all. Kneeling — I know we’re stuck on it because it’s a real thing — but kneeling is a form of protest. I support protest across the board. We need to bring light to the issue. I think everyone knows what the issue is — we’re done with that … And I’m not minimizing that part of it because that has to happen, that’s a necessary part of the process. But now that we all know what’s going on, what are we going to do? How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.”

He said he wanted to use the opportunity to bridge the gap between the poor and the rich. For him, it is an irresistible offer to uplift communities through entertainment.

He said that he was not ‘knocking’ anything that it was that Kaepernick was doing and that he does not expect him to ‘knock’ what he was doing too.

Kaepernick has not commented on the deal between Roc Nation and the NFL but his long-time girlfriend  Nessa Diab criticized it as a business deal hidden behind the smokescreen of social justice. She also expressed a view which is largely held by critics of the partnership. She said that it was a partnership struck by the NFL to paper over the cracks caused by its handling of Kaepernick.

It is viewed in many corners as a ploy to use a well-loved and respected black celebrity to mitigate the call for wholistic reforms as regards race and equality. It is a partnership seen by critics as an attempt to make the people look past the hostilities of owners in the NFL to football players using their platform to highlight the plight of their communities.

Kaepernick himself shared a video on Instagram to commemorate protest captioning it: “the third anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression. I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!”.

Jay-Z along with a host of other big artists have been very critical of the NFL and highly supportive of Kaepernick. The hip hop mogul put on a jersey of the player on Saturday nightlife as he rapped the lines: “Once I said no to the Super Bowl: You need me, I don’t need you. Every night we in the end zone. Tell the NFL we in stadiums too,”

However, the rapper said in the press conference that he knows that a lot of people expected to him to turn down the offer. He explained that when people are ready for a positive change then they need to be given a chance. He spoke about the need for continuous dialogue while taking a dig at what appears to be his belief that the real world and the virtual space of the social media are different: “This isn’t Twitter.”


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