As soon as we heard that Jay-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, was teaming up with the NFL, we knew that we didn’t hear the whole story. And certainly hadn’t heard the backlash yet.
The news hit last week, in the middle of the NFL’s preseason, where the top headline was whether or not Antonio Brown froze his foot off. It really came out of nowhere: Roc Nation would be the league’s “live music entertainment strategist,” consulting on entertainment and social justice projects. Considering the NFL hasn’t exactly been the forebear of racial equity in the league—notably, in its handling of the still-unsigned Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests—the whole deal, or at least what we knew of it, felt off.
Hov hasn’t exactly done himself any favors since then. In an interview at Roc Nation headquarters last week, he was asked if he would kneel or stand if the national anthem was being performed. He said, “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.” Add to that the rumors that Jay will soon become the owner of an NFL team, and that was more than enough for players—and Kaepernick—to finally chime in.
On Sunday morning, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback tweeted a picture of several people kneeling, with a message that seems like a direct response to Jay-Z’s comments:
One of the players pictured is Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, who was the second to begin kneeling during the national anthem after Kaepernick. Reporters caught him in the Carolina locker room on Saturday, just as the ownership rumors broke.
“Jay-Z claimed to be a supporter of Colin, wore his jersey, told people not to perform at the Super Bowl because of [what] the NFL did to Colin,” he said. “Now he’s going to be a part owner, that’s kind of despicable.”
Now, in addition to the tweets and locker room-side soundbites, we’re just starting to hear about the odd detail or two regarding Jay-Z’s history with the league. Bryan Michael Cox, a Grammy-winning songwriter, alleged that Jay-Z phoned his friend, rapper Jermaine Dupri, to reject a similar deal with the NFL to produce all of the musical acts for its 2018 Super Bowl LIVE show.
“I’m not saying that it can’t turn into some good shit,” Cox said. “We’re also talking about a guy who single-handedly picked up the phone and called Jermaine to tell him not to do it…. When we all had that meeting with the NFL, all that shit was part of the same shit.”
Keep in mind, we still don’t know all the details from the Roc Nation-NFL partnership—but don’t expect players and celebrities to keep quiet leading up to the September 5th kickoff of the new season.