Full disclosure: Jay-Z is my favorite rapper of all time.
Whatever accolades you can give him, I've given on my own internal GOAT lists. That's not to say that I haven't been critical of him in the past — for things like the stabbing of Lance “Un” Rivera, doing two albums with R. Kelly and, you know, cheating on Queen Beyoncé.
Last week, things got weird again. Word broke about a new partnership between the NFL and Jay’s Roc Nation, which would have the company heading up the league's entertainment — including consultation on Super Bowl halftime performers — and social activism efforts. A day later came accounts that it wasn't just a partnership, and that Jay's looking to take an ownership stake in a team.The announcement didn’t receive the positive reaction the rapper and the league were after.
Let's start with the basics. Colin Kaepernick still isn't on a team. When President Trump isn't calling him a “son of a bitch,” he’s making claims like he made a week ago, saying Kaepernick would be on a team if “he was good enough.” That's disingenuous. There are 64 NFL quarterback jobs. Kap isn't No. 65 in talent.
When Jay-Z is partnering with the league and Kap still doesn't have a job, that causes a glitch in the Matrix for Kap and Jay supporters, the overlap between which is pretty high. Jay even nods at the distance between his brand and the NFL's on “APES#!T,” the lead single from his 2018 duo album with Beyoncé as The Carters: “I said no to the Super Bowl / You need me, I don't need you / Every night we in the endzone / Tell the NFL we in stadiums, too.”
That's a proverbial mic drop, and let's be honest: Jay's right. The NFL needed someone like him to partner with. But optically, it appears that it's at the expense of Kap. Personally, I think it's a little more nuanced than that.
Nike has a partnership with the NFL, handling team jerseys and other gear, through 2028. But last year, Nike also brilliantly unveiled its Kaepernick line. It landed with Kap jerseys (that sold out the day of release; I know because I couldn't cop one), sneakers and an amazing ad campaign — leaning on a black-and-white picture of the afro-ed Kap and the quote “Believe in something. Even if it means sacrificing everything.” Hell, the commercial even came to light during the Super Bowl.
It caused a few issues, with fans and detractors alike asking of Nike, “Are they figuring out a way to monetize pain?” The short answer: Yes. The long answer: Nike is just like the NFL or Wall Street or Apple — at this point, they’re all too huge to fail.
When people claim they wanted to boycott Nike, it would be impossible. Your beloved Converses? They’re owned by Nike, too. The connective tissue is too deep. So it felt like the NFL doing something to try to get in the good graces of the community that supports Kap was inevitable.
The press conference with Jay and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell felt like an impossibility a year ago. Jay said, ““I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”
That might be true, but Jay wasn't the one that was kneeling.
Still, some also feel that the league's attempt at community outreach could have some positive effect. When Meek Mill was jailed for violating parole and sought a new trial because the judge in the case was suspected of being more than a bit shady, one of the biggest allies to get him out was Patriots owner (and spa goer) Robert Kraft. Kraft has been huge in helping with Meek's appeal, and people swear by him for wanting to help with the African-American community. Kraft also is friends with Mr. 45, to whom he’s donated money and publicly supports. And let's not forget Tom Brady, with his MAGA hat in his locker. Yea, this s#!t gets weird.
All in all, I wouldn't what I feel is conflicted. I feel like I need to be patient. There was a picture of Jay-Z and Beyoncé with Prince Harry and Meghan, and a caption accurately said, “Here's a picture with the royal couple. Along with Harry and Meghan.” Jay-Z and Beyonce have been the leaders of business, music, art, culture and being unapologetically black. I think Jay is being methodical with this endeavor. But is it also him, now in the billionaire club, just doing what billionaires do? Maybe. But I have more hope for him than that.
Here's a solution: I think it would represent the greatest kind of poetic justice if, when the NFL Players Union seeks another president, it gave the job to Colin Kaepernick. Maybe that's a possibility, or maybe he doesn't want it. Kap is still willing and able to play, posting on his social media that he's still ready. According to Kap's Instagram page, he seems to be displeased with Jay's coziness to the commissioner. And disagreement from both ends of the coin are popping up. Mostly, other black folks are fighting each other over this, which could very well be part of the NFL’s strategy — “Let Jay take the heat, and we can stop talking about this.”
Overall, Killer Mike summed it up best during his recent appearance on Real Time with Bill Maher sums it up:
“It doesn't destroy what Kap kneeled for. What he kneeled for was proper treatment of us by state agents, the police. That doesn't end with him getting a job. The same way that him kneeling is not an insult to the military. ... I believe if Jay becomes a team owner, Kap gets a tryout.”
Let's hope so.