Jay Z and the NFL – The Next Blueprint?

It is undeniable that Shawn “Jay Z” Cater has an enormous amount of social capital. As such when ever he makes a move its bound to be a seismic event. Last week news broke that Jay Z and Roc Nation will be working together with the NFL to bluster it’s entertainment performances and the NFL’s Inspire Change Initiative. This news was met with mixed feelings, especially from those within black community. The main contributing factor to these mixed feelings focus around Colin Kaepernick and his current state of being unemployed.

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In 2016 Kaepernick, star QB for the San Fransisco 49ers, started sitting and eventually kneeling during the national anthem at games. This was in protest to the myriad of police shootings that took place that year involving young men and women of color. Amid controversy and backlash over the matter, following that season, Kaepernick opted out of his contract with the 49ers, became a free agent, and has been virtually blacked balled from the league ever since.

The issue here is the implicit racism shown by the NFL as an institution by not supporting one of their players during that specific period of time. Since President Trump has taken office and so famously said in 2017: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, Get that son of a bitch off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s FIRED!”, the NFL has cracked down on these type of peaceful protests done by players.

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President Trump’s comments made this an issue of patriotism when in actuality, Kaepernick and other players kneeling was about the theft of an individual’s right to life and to live without fear in the United States as an African American. Take the injustice done to Kaeprnick, Trump’s comments on the matter, the NFL’s capitulation and inherit racism, and add money into the equation, and you get the current mess surrounding the National Football League.

In comes Jay Z.

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In a press conference about the deal, when asked if he would kneel or stand, Jay Z stated that we are “passed kneeling” and that “its time to go in to actionable items”. Additionally he said that this deal was not about Kaepernick having a job.

The lingering question here is, okay then what’s the play? What are Jay Z’s true intentions with this deal and what does this deal mean not necessarily for Kaepernick, but for the black community as a whole? We also have to take into consideration Jay Z’s position of power. Jay Z is a self made billionaire who along with his wife Beyoncé, is the monarch of the modern day music industry. Their combined achievements represent all that is possible for African Americans, and his rags to riches story alone has impacted and given hope to a generation.

Its only fair that a person with that kind of clout interjecting themselves in this kind of situation would have to answer some difficult questions and be held accountable for their actions. One would hate to be accusatory however, this is just the latest power move made by the couple this year. Is this NFL deal just a means to amass greater riches? Or will real reform come to the NFL now that Jay Z has a foot in the door?

Additionally, we cannot forget that regardless of star power, Jay Z’s position of influence is still stemming from a relatively small role within the NFL as a whole. It’s not as if he is a team owner in addition to partnering on this endeavor. While only time will tell what comes from this deal, its important for the African American community to look themselves in the mirror on this issue. Let’s say this is just a money grab, as a collective, the African American community would not be in a position to fault Jay Z when as a whole, the community did not really boycott the NFL in the years following Kaepernick’s unemployment.

Viewership of the Superbowl steadily but insignificantly declined from 2016 to 2018 by a couple million. 2019 was the only major decline in viewership by a loss of 16.2 Million viewers from its peak in 2015, which was arguably because that was the Patriots third consecutive year going to the super bowl and the idea of the Rams actually standing a chance was a pipe dream. And while viewership is on a general decline for the NFL, it is of note that that decline is greater amongst white viewers and the 18-24 age group. Concurrently, other than that 18-24 age group being generally less interested in the sport, there is no evidence of Kaepernick being the catalysis of that viewership decline (or the likelihood of such an assumption).

Additionally, let’s not think this is a two way street or a Jay Z versus the African American community issue. That’s a “crabs in a barrel” mentality. The fact of the matter is that regardless of what NFL commissioner Roger Goodell allows Jay Z to do in this “partnership”, profits will definitely be made for both sides, and its likely that those viewership statistics will begin to trend upwards again, and grow in that 18-24 demographic.

From Goodell’s perspective, what better way to improve optics, increase viewership, and therefore increase revenue, than to bring in someone like Jay Z in an essential role in terms of ability to connect with marginalized demographics, and do some of the heavy lifting for the league in terms of public perception. This is speculation and as is the case with Jay Z, one cannot insinuate motive, that being said, these are also two business men that have surely mulled over that aspect of this deal.

The general hope is that regardless Goodell’s intentions, Jay Z’s intentions are well meant and that he uses this opportunity at the NFL to make some real fundamental change in that institution. If he does this could be his next blueprint, the schematics on how to ignite and influence the advancement of practical and progressive change within an institution.

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