Now he’s in business with the league.
Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, wrote on Twitter that Kaepernick didn’t speak with Jay-Z before he brokered his deal with the NFL. Jay-Z said yesterday that he spoke to Kaepernick on Monday, but he wouldn’t divulge how their conversation went.
Jemele Hill: Kaepernick won. The NFL lost.
A source close to Kaepernick, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic, told me, “It was not a good conversation.”
But it was all smiles yesterday between Jay-Z and Goodell.
“We don’t want people to come in and necessarily agree with us; we want people to come in and tell us what we can do better,” Goodell said at the press conference. “I think that’s a core element of our relationship between the two organizations, and with Jay and I personally.”
The financial arrangements have not been made public. But whatever the numbers, the NFL’s new partnership with Jay-Z is a huge win for the league. Some of the biggest celebrities in the world have voiced their support of Kaepernick, saying they would boycott the NFL until Kaepernick is back in the league.
Now that the NFL has Jay-Z’s blessing, it’s conceivable that some of those entertainers who distanced themselves from the NFL might change their mind. Jay-Z has given the NFL exactly what it wanted: guilt-free access to black audiences, culture, entertainers, and influencers.
NFL officials must have been bothered by how much Kaepernick was discussed during Super Bowl week earlier this year. Not only did Goodell have to answer more questions about why Kaepernick still isn’t receiving any interest from NFL teams, but there had also been a number of reports that the league was having a hard time finding performers for its halftime show. Some stars, including Rihanna and Cardi B, reportedly turned down the opportunity to appear at the event show out of allegiance to Kaepernick. Other celebrities, such as the comedian Amy Schumer, publicly pressured the Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine to pull out of his performance. The Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil-rights leader, blasted the rapper Travis Scott, who performed with Levine. “You can’t fight against Jim Crow and then go sit in the back of the bus,” Sharpton told TMZ.
Ironically, one of the people who also advised Scott not to perform at the Super Bowl was Jay-Z. Yesterday the Roc Nation founder said he’d told Scott he shouldn’t perform at the Super Bowl because he would be playing “second fiddle” to Maroon 5. It had nothing to do with Kaepernick.
Clearly Jay-Z’s support of Kaepernick only went so far. Regardless, why would Jay-Z waste any of his enormous social and cultural capital on the NFL when he doesn’t need the league’s platform, money, resources, or validation?
Read: The war on black athletes
I get that Jay-Z might see this as an opportunity for artists to connect with the NFL’s immense audience. He could also offer some incredible insight and direction to the league on the social-justice front, since he’s been actively engaged in such work for a long time. I also understand that, to become hip-hop’s first billionaire, Jay-Z didn’t always have the luxury of avoiding relationships and partnerships with people he disagreed with or disliked.