Video of Jay-Z discussing what he sees as social justice issues earlier this year has resurfaced online, prompting some people on social media to claim that footage may have been the first hint that he planned to team up with the NFL. The footage from a media event with New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, Van Jones and others was the latest ammunition for people who have been upset with Jay’s partnership with the NFL that many have said undercut Colin Kaepernick’s own social justice movement against the pro football league.
In the video from January, which didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, Jay — along with rapper Meek Mill, Kraft, Philadelphia 76ers co-owner Michael Rubin, Brooklyn Nets co-owner Clara Wu Tsai and others to launch the Reform Alliance to address criminal justice issues — spoke about topics that, especially in retrospect, seemed to run counter with many things the rapper has espoused in his lyrics.
At the time, Jay seemed to blame single parent households for negative police relations with Black people, defended jailing with discretion and sympathized with “hard working” taxpayers who pay for jails.
Those fateful words came one month before Kaepernick — the free agent quarterback who claims the NFL blacklisted him for his silent kneeling protest during the playing of the national anthem to bring attention to police brutality against Black people — settled with the league and withdrew his grievance.
Several months later, Jay was gleefully meeting with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce their partnership in the name of social justice because, as the rapper said, they have moved “past kneeling,” something many people took as a swipe at Kaepernick. The kneeling would be replaced by “actionable items,” Jay said vaguely at the time.
Watch the full press event below. Jay speaks at the 55:20 mark.
But this past week Jay unveiled some of those presumed “actionable items” in the first phase of his new NFL role, and to say it was underwhelming was a drastic understatement.
“Today, the NFL and Roc Nation announced the launch of Inspire Change apparel and Songs of the Season as part of their new partnership. Inspire Change apparel, a new social enterprise model, will fund and support Inspire Change programs across the country,” the official press release on Thursday said in part. “Meek Mill, Meghan Trainor and Rapsody will be the first Inspire Change advocates of the 2019 NFL Season and will perform a free concert at the NFL Kickoff Experience” on Thursday, the release continued.
Yes, that’s right – Jay has moved “past kneeling” with t-shirts and music concerts, something that some people ridiculed as already falling well short of the progress that Kaepernick’s anthem protest had achieved in its three years.
Jay’s partnership with the NFL caught many people off guard and inspired claims of hypocrisy in part because the rapper had previously expressed support for Kaepernick, wore his jersey while performing and even discouraged artists from performing at the most recent Super Bowl. Now, with the new deal, Jay-Z and his Roc Nation company will get to produce the Super Bowl halftime show and hand-pick who performs.
Carolinas Panther Safety Eric Reid, who is still kneeling, has been among the most vocal against the NFL partnering with Jay-Z.
“He’s capitalized on this situation,” Reid said about Jay. “Nobody to my knowledge talked about social justice before Colin started protesting. That was not a topic of the NFL off the field. For Jay-Z to come in and partner to address social justice, do it behind Colin’s back, get paid to do it … I don’t have words.”
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