Jay-Z has already won in the game of life. Born Shawn Carter, the Brooklyn native went from growing up in Section 8 housing in the Marcy Projects to becoming hip-hop’s first billionaire. He married the most significant artist of this generation in Beyoncé, and he’s considered by most as one of the top rappers of all time.
At this point in his career, Jay-Z does not need an entity like the NFL to give back to the community or create great halftime or Super Bowl content. His name stands alone.
On the 2018 song “Ape S—,” Jay-Z rapped, “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, it was a bit puzzling for many to see Jay-Z form a partnership with the NFL. In theory, the proposed deal makes sense being that Jay-Z has often been a proponent of social issues that affect the Black community. But the optics of the news conference could do more harm than good for Jay-Z’s well-established brand.
On Aug. 14, 2019, Jay-Z sat next to Roger Goodell at the Roc Nation headquarters in Manhattan during a news conference where the two announced the partnership. During the news conference, Jay-Z said, “I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct? So, in that case, this is a success … ’cause there’s two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’ So, for me, it was like, action, actionable item. What are we going to do with it? So we should, millions of people, and all we get stuck on is Colin [Kaepernick] not having a job. I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”
The process of taking action is important, especially when considering the NFL owners’ lack of action when it comes to hiring Colin Kaepernick, the man who initially started the protest by kneeling during the national anthem. There are 32 teams in the NFL, which means that there are at least 64 quarterbacks who will be on the field when the season kicks off in a few weeks. From a statistical standpoint, there are not 64 quarterbacks in the NFL who are better than Kaepernick, a man who once led the San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl.
NFL owners have shunned Kaepernick for his decision to kneel during the national anthem. They have punished him by denying him the basic opportunity to compete in a sport.
The NFL appears to be using Jay-Z as a pawn to regain the cultural capital that it continues to lose as Kaepernick remains at home, waiting for an opportunity to play the game he loves.
Jay-Z can do a lot of good in the community with financial backing from the NFL. However, it may not have been worth the backlash he will receive if Kaepernick continues to be blackballed for taking a stand by kneeling.