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Volume 26 No. 209
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Jay-Z: NFL Deal Can Help "Amplify" Social Justice Work

Jay-Z said he couldn't ignore the opportunity to accomplish big things and uplift communities
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jay-Z said he couldn't ignore the opportunity to accomplish big things and uplift communities
Photo: GETTY IMAGES
Jay-Z said he couldn't ignore the opportunity to accomplish big things and uplift communities
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Jay-Z said that he can "help amplify" the NFL's Inspire Change initiative for social justice through his new partnership with the league, according to Jason Reid of THE UNDEFEATED. Jay-Z said that the opportunity to "potentially accomplish big things and uplift many in communities important to him was an opportunity he couldn't ignore." He added, "We forget that [Colin Kaepernick's] whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase." NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said that he "knew exactly what to expect" when partnering with Jay-Z. Goodell: "I don't [think] either one of us expected that this relationship wouldn't have its critics. But you don't let the critics or the negativity overwhelm the chance to do something really positive." Jay-Z said that he understands many "believe he should have shut the door on the NFL." But he added, "People have to evolve. People have to want to be better and people have to want to have conversations." Patriots Owner Robert Kraft introduced Goodell and Jay-Z, "believing they would work well together." After Kraft participated in the first meeting, Goodell and Jay-Z "envisioned a path forward together" (ESPN.com, 8/14).

STILL STANDS WITH KAP: In N.Y., Ken Belson writes if Goodell thought that "teaming up with Jay-Z would end a perception that Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league, he was mistaken." Kaepernick's name was "invoked over and over in one way or another" at the press conference announcing the partnership between the league and Jay-Z' Roc Nation agency. The "first question to Jay-Z was why he had partnered with the league" with Kaepernick "unable to land a job in the NFL." Jay-Z said that through this deal, he and others could "follow up Kaepernick's protest by helping millions of people." Goodell said that player protests inspired by Kaepernick had "raised awareness of social injustice and that the focus should be on work the players are doing to solve problems." Belson writes this partnership may "raise a lot more money for groups fighting social injustice that the league is backing" through Inspire Change. However, the league is "probably going to have a hard time shaking the Kaepernick questions" (N.Y. TIMES, 8/15).

TAKING THE NEXT STEP: In N.Y., Stefan Bondy notes Jay-Z "views his project with the NFL as the next step after kneeling, an action that not only piggybacks Colin Kaepernick's movement but enhances it." Jay-Z: "We're [past] kneeling and I think it's time to go into action. I'm not minimizing that part of it. That has to happen. That's a necessary part of the process." Bondy notes the partnership between the NFL and Roc Nation was "pitched as 'unifying America' through education and actions that addressed policing and the criminal justice system." Presumably, this deal "has the monetary backing to invoke real social change" (N.Y. DAILY NEWS, 8/15). ESPN's Jason Fitz said, "If we actually want to move forward, it's going to take everybody on both sides saying, 'How do we maximize this partnership?'" ("Golic & Wingo," ESPN Radio, 8/15). THE ATLANTIC's Jemele Hill writes the new partnership is a "huge win" for the league, as it is "conceivable that some of those entertainers who distanced themselves from the NFL might change their mind" (THEATLANTIC.com, 8/15). 

LEADING THE CHARGE: ESPN's Jalen Rose said Jay-Z is the "perfect person that can embody a relationship that clearly has been fractured with the NFL and its public." Rose: "For the NFL it's a big leap forward in acknowledging that they need that olive branch" ("Jalen & Jacoby," ESPN2, 8/14). USA TODAY's Jarrett Bell writes this deal is "more intriguing" because of how Jay-Z was "one of the most prominent critics of Goodell's league for its handling of Kaepernick." Despite this, Jay-Z's "exemplary track record on social justice matters should have tremendous value" to the NFL. He is a "fitting partner for so many NFL players who have taken up the cause." Jay-Z "looms as a leadership voice that has been missing" (USA TODAY, 8/15). NBCSN's Chris Simms said he thinks Jay-Z's "heart is in the right place with this whole thing." Simms said the partnership with the NFL is "not only a business move but he's trying to shed some light and some knowledge on 32 white owners" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/15).

DISINGENUOUS DEAL: In DC, Kevin Blackistone wrote Jay-Z "can't stand up for Kaepernick while tucking himself into bed with the NFL." It is "disingenuous" and "hypocritical." Blackistone: "What should have come of the deal Jay-Z announced with the NFL should have included Goodell standing up for Kaepernick." If Jay-Z is "who he has presented himself to be," more had "better come out of this partnership with the NFL than some more zeros in his bank account" (WASHINGTON POST, 8/15). PFT's Mike Florio said, "A lot of people are troubled by it and rightfully so because the extent the NFL is now aware of the message that Kaepernick was trying to send, you can't say you've gotten the message but still continue to kill the career of the messenger" ("PFT," NBCSN, 8/15). FS1's Jason Whitlock said the NFL is "trying to use Jay-Z because they know that we're headed towards a very volatile political year." Whitlock said this election cycle is "going to be bonkers and the NFL doesn't want to be swallowed up by it" ("Speak for Yourself," FS1, 8/14).

OWNERSHIP AMBITIONS? PRO FOOTBALL TALK's Florio wrote when Jay-Z "decided to launch a sports agency six years ago," a source explained his "ambition in simple terms: He wants to own a team." The NFL deal "nudges Jay-Z far closer to that goal, if that indeed is the objective." He now has a "formal relationship" with the NFL, and has a "chance to build up plenty of goodwill with owners." Florio: "Perhaps Jay-Z would start as a Jon Bon Jovi-style owner, serving as the face of the group while the person with the controlling share opts to stay in the shadows." There is "almost always a bigger play when a big deal like this is announced" (PROFOOTBALLTALK.com, 8/14).