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Volume 26 No. 84
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Jay-Z The Face Of NFL's Social Justice Program With New Deal

Jay-Z will expand his Roc Nation agency, which will play an integral role in NFL entertainment operations
Photo: getty images
Jay-Z will expand his Roc Nation agency, which will play an integral role in NFL entertainment operations
Photo: getty images
Jay-Z will expand his Roc Nation agency, which will play an integral role in NFL entertainment operations
Photo: getty images

The NFL's partnership with Jay-Z will both "help the league with one of its thorniest problems" and "expand the NFL’s entertainment offerings," according to Andrew Beaton of the WALL STREET JOURNAL. The partnership will see Jay-Z "take a prominent role in a social-justice program," while his agency Roc Nation will "expand and play an integral role in the NFL’s entertainment operations." The deal effectively positions Jay-Z as the "face of the NFL’s social-justice program, Inspire Change." Jay-Z said that he "felt comfortable becoming a leading voice for the Inspire Change because of the league’s ability to reach so many different people." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell "championed Jay-Z’s ability to connect with younger fans that the league needs to both secure its future audience and make a broader cultural impact." Goodell said that the league has also sent letters inviting Colin Kaepernick into the "conversation on the league’s efforts." Jay-Z said that he has "not spoken to Kaepernick but hopes to do so soon." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft was "among the key figures in bringing the partnership with Roc Nation together" (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 8/14). ESPN Radio's Mike Golic Jr. said, "This is the NFL trying to mend fences. The NFL did a lot of damage to its relationship with its African-American fans with everything that happened with Colin Kaepernick" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 8/14).

ACCOUNTABLE PARTNERS: In N.Y., Belson & Sisario note Roc Nation and the league are expected to officially announce the deal sometime today. Financial terms were not disclosed. Goodell said that the league "wants partners that will hold it to account." He added, "We don’t want people to come in and necessarily agree with us; we want people to come in and tell us what we can do better." Jay-Z said that Roc Nation’s deal with the league "allowed him to significantly expand" the Inspire Change initiative through a series of programs. Those include “Songs of the Season,” inspirational songs from five artists that will "serve as unofficial anthems" to be played during NFL broadcasts. It will also include a “visual album” of Super Bowl halftime shows; and “Beyond the Field,” a platform for players that "may include podcasts or playlists" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/14). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said Jay-Z is "not the kind of person that's going to sit by, be quiet and have absolutely, positively nothing to say." Smith: "He's going to be willing to bring attention to these issues and to address them." He added the fact that the NFL has "expressed a willingness to have Jay-Z assist them in using their strong arms in order to provoke change, that's a beautiful thing" ("First Take," ESPN, 8/14). Goodell said negotiations with Jay-Z started on how to "bring the best entertainment to the Super Bowl." Goodell: "Then it quickly evolved in that first meeting about, ‘How do we use this to have the greatest impact that we possibly can on our communities?’ And so that evolved to our ‘Inspire Change'" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/14). THE UNDEFEATED's Jason Reid reported the agreement "does not call" for Jay-Z to perform at the Super Bowl (8/13).

SOCIAL NETWORK: The AP's Barry Wilner noted while the "entertainment portion of the deal is important," much emphasis from both the league and Roc Nation is being "placed on the social relations aspect." Wilner: "For Inspire Change to succeed, it must have strong roots within the communities that are most affected by the issues the players want addressed: criminal justice reform; relationships with police; economic growth opportunities; and educational progress" (AP, 8/13). ESPN's Jalen Rose said this is a "true validation that we need to work together to not only create change," but to be "bringing back to the community and elevating the awareness of what athletes hope to get accomplished." Rose: "Jay-Z is the guy to get all sides to the table, aligning with the NFL, this is going to be a positive step forward" ("Get Up," ESPN, 8/14). ESPN Radio's Victor Cruz said, "The biggest thing is social reform and different things that are outside the scope of the NFL so that they can have someone that understands the culture of that the NFL is, that understands the culture of the type of fans and people that watch the NFL and what they want to listen to, hear, and see the NFL doing in the community that makes people sit back and say they're really working, they're figuring it out. They are not just sitting back and letting other people do it" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 8/14). ABC's T.J. Holmes said this partnership gives the NFL "something they didn't have: street cred" ("GMA," ABC, 8/14). REDEF.com's Matty Karas writes while sports, TV punditry and politics are "completely different" forms of entertainment, they "intersect nearly every step of the way." No amount of "yelling at a musician to shut up and sing or at an athlete to shut up and play will change that." The NFL/Roc Nation deal is an "acknowledgment of that reality, and good for the league for pursuing it" (REDEF.com, 8/14).

WHAT ABOUT KAP? YAHOO SPORTS' Charles Robinson notes the fact that Kaepernick is not involved is "likely to create hard questions for Jay-Z, given his previous stance of supporting" the former NFLer. Robinson: "Apparently something has changed in that equation. Precisely what that is remains to be seen" (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 8/14). ESPN's Stephen A. Smith said, "When is somebody going to mandate while everybody is making all of these deals that Colin Kaepernick gets a job again in the National Football League?" ("The Stephen A. Smith Show," ESPN Radio, 8/13).