Jay Z‘s decision to partner with the National Football League in August of 2019 was received by many as a betrayal of former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the national anthem in 2016 in protest of racial profiling, and the deaths of black Americans by the dint of police. Kaepernick hasn’t been rehired since leaving at the close of the season.
Like many prominent black personalities in entertainment and media, Jay-Z publicly supported Kaepernick. But, cutting a deal with his adversary two years later prompted many to question whether Jay Z had supported him after all.
Jay Z and Roc Nation were recruited by Robert K. Kraft, New England Patriots owner and chairman of the NFL’s media committee, to contribute to the halftime performance of the Super Bowl and other music events related to the league. Roc Nation has been billed as co-producer.
The partnership with the NFL was widely criticized. But, Jay-Z said he could endure the criticism if he could utilize the NFL’s platform to persuade white football fans to understand the seriousness of police brutality. “As long as real people are being hurt and marginalized and losing family members, then yes, I can take a couple rounds of negative press,” he said.
It isn’t that Jay Z didn’t support Kaepernick: He said, “No one is saying [Colin Kaepernick] hasn’t been done wrong. He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now? — Because people are still dying.’”
Since then, Jay Z has worked with Roc Nation clients Meek Mill and Yo Gotti on prison reform efforts, and has facilitated a number of initiatives designed to address police brutality and criminal justice across the country. In partnering with the NFL, Jay Z was able to get them to commit $100 million over the next ten years for the Inspire Change project, aimed at economic and social advancement, police relations, community relations, and criminal justice reform.
Colin Kaepernick and Jay Z don’t directly work together, but their individual actions are changing the game.
The 2020 NFL Super Bowl Sunday (February 2), will see the Kansas City Chiefs play the San Francisco 49ers in Miami, Florida. Roc Nation client, Shakira, will perform at halftime.