The NFL launched a multiyear partnership with rapper Jay-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, with the intent of working together on the league’s live game experience and increasing social justice efforts, but the alliance has drawn criticism from allies of activist and former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, according to ESPN.
Roc Nation will advise the league on aspects of entertainment, including the Super Bowl halftime performance, and the company will use the combination of football and music to make a positive impact in communities through the league’s Inspire Change initiative.
Kaepernick allies, including The Atlantic columnist Jemele Hill, former Kaepernick teammate Eric Reid, and Kaepernick’s girlfriend Nessa Diab were critical of Jay-Z, given name Shawn Carter, partnering with the league that they believe has blackballed Kaepernick.
Hill wrote a particularly scathing column in The Atlantic titled, “Jay Z helped the NFL banish Colin Kaepernick.”
“By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy,” Hill wrote. “Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.”
Carter defended the deal during a news conference Wednesday, saying his goal is to advance the cause that Kaepernick started with his protests.
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice,” Carter said. “In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There are 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?’ For me it’s like an actionable item, what are we gonna do with it? Everyone heard, we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying [in Kaepernick’s underlying message]. So what are we gonna do? You know what I’m saying? [Help] millions and millions of people, or we get stuck on Colin not having a job.”
Eric Reid, who was Kaepernick’s teammate with the San Francisco 49ers and joined Kaepernick in kneeling during the national anthem, accused Jay-Z of putting money over principle.
“These aren’t mutually exclusive,” Reid said of Carter’s comment about moving forward versus getting stuck on Kaepernick’s employment status. “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.”
Carter dismissed the idea that he should be boycotted or “cancelled” due to his partnership with the NFL, saying that you have to work with those with whom you disagree in order to have progress.
“People have to evolve. People have to want to be better and people have to want to have conversations,” Carter said. “This isn’t Twitter.”