Seated next to Roger Goodell on Wednesday to discuss his company’s partnership with the NFL, Jay-Z took a number of questions about choosing to work with the league despite the fact that Colin Kaepernick, whom he has supported in the past, remains unsigned.
The rapper and business mogul, whose real name is Shawn Carter, defended his decision as “the next phase” in a process begun by Kaepernick to bring attention to issues of social injustice.
“There [are] two parts of protesting,” Jay-Z said at the New York headquarters of Roc Nation, which is set to help oversee NFL-related musical events and play a role in the league’s recent social initiative, Inspire Change. “You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’”
Asked if he would “kneel or stand,” were the national anthem being performed, the 22-time Grammy Award winner replied, “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”
Kaepernick has yet to publicly comment on the Roc Nation-NFL partnership, but several hours after Jay-Z spoke with reporters, the former 49ers quarterback took to social media to mark the third anniversary of his initial sideline demonstration.
“Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression,” Kaepernick wrote in his post. “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!”
Kaepernick shared a video that featured remarks by him on the importance of activism, interspersed with footage of police violence and reactions from people affected by it, as well as with clips of people praising him for his willingness to use his platform on behalf of others.
Kaepernick’s post came a week after he shared a video that showed him working out strenuously while saying in a voice-over that he was “still ready” to play in the NFL. After the 2016 season, when he was the first in the NFL to stage protests of racial injustice during pregame renditions of the national anthem, Kaepernick became a free agent and has been unable to latch on with a team since .
He filed a grievance against the NFL in 2017, accusing team owners of colluding to punish him for his activism by keeping him out of the league, and it was settled in February for an undisclosed amount. Shortly after that, an attorney for Kaepernick said the quarterback “absolutely wants to play” in the NFL, and his inability to do so has been linked to the refusals of several pop stars to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show.
During this year’s Super Bowl, a number of celebrities used the hashtag “ImWithKap” to make a statement on social media that they were deliberately ignoring the NFL’s championship game out of support for Kaepernick.
Now Roc Nation will have a major say in who performs at the halftime show, although that does not mean that Jay-Z, who has declined the gig in the past, will take the stage himself. Goodell said Tuesday that he hoped Jay-Z would eventually perform but claimed that their discussions leading up to the partnership “quickly went” to how they had “an opportunity to make an impact well beyond just the Super Bowl."
“It could be every other event. It could be every week of our regular season,” the NFL commissioner said. “It could be in ‘Inspire Change’ and how we use platforms to drive positive change in our communities.”
“First thing I said to Roger was, ’If this is about me performing at the Super Bowl, then we can just end this conversation now,’ ” Jay-Z said Wednesday.
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase,” he said.
“Everyone’s saying, ‘How are you going forward if Kaep doesn’t have a job?’ This was not about him having a job,” Jay-Z said at another point. “That became part of it. We know what it is — now how do we address that injustice? What’s the way forward?”
A report Wednesday that Jay-Z and NFL officials had spoken with Kaepernick before the deal with Roc Nation was denied by the ex-quarterback’s girlfriend, radio personality Nessa Diab. “They NEVER included him in any discussion,” she said on Twitter.
When asked whether Kaepernick would have any future involvement in Roc Nation’s work with the NFL, Jay-Z, who wore a jersey honoring the ex-quarterback during a “Saturday Night Live” performance in 2017, replied, “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.”
Following his post on the anniversary of his first sideline protest, Kaepernick shared a tweet from director Ava DuVernay in which she used the hashtag, “ImStillWithKap.” He also shared a tweet from J. Cole in which the musician reposted Kaepernick’s video and tagged the NFL while saying, “Let the man work.”
NFL safety Eric Reid, a close friend and former teammate of Kaepernick’s who was among the first to follow him in taking a knee during the anthem, shared a tweet Wednesday from ESPN in which Jay-Z was quoted as saying that “everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying [in Kaepernick’s underlying message],” adding, “So what are we gonna do? … [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job.”
“These aren’t mutually exclusive,” Reid, among the few NFL players who has continued to stage pregame demonstrations, said on Twitter. “They can both happen at the same time! It looks like your goal was to make millions and millions of dollars by assisting the NFL in burying Colin’s career.”
Reid subsequently shared a post in which another Twitter user said, “Jay-Z NEVER took a knee. The fact that he has the audacity to say that, ‘I think that we’ve moved past kneeling,’ is ridiculous. He sacrificed NOTHING. In truth, he is actually capitalizing off of Kaepernick’s loss.”
At the media session earlier Wednesday, Jay-Z said he understood the sentiment that he should have nothing to do with the NFL but added that “people have to evolve.”
“People have to want to be better and people have to want to have conversations. This isn’t Twitter,” he said.
“You can’t just throw someone out if they make a mistake,” Jay-Z continued. “This is the real world. You can’t say, ‘Oh, you made a mistake, you’re canceled. I’m never speaking to you again.’ That’s doesn’t accomplish anything. That’s what I believe.
“I believe real change is had through real conversation and real work.”
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