Jay-Z defends move to partner with NFL

8/23/2019, 6 a.m.
A day after Jay-Z announced that his Roc Nation company was partnering with the NFL, the rap icon explained that ...


A day after Jay-Z announced that his Roc Nation company was partnering with the NFL, the rap icon explained that he still supports protesting, kneeling and NFL player Colin Kaepernick, but he’s also interested in working with the league to make substantial changes.



The Grammy winner and entrepreneur fielded questions Aug. 14 at his company’s New York City headquarters alongside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. When directly asked if he would kneel or stand, Jay-Z said, “I think we’ve moved past kneeling and I think it’s time to go into actionable items.”

The NFL and Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports representation company announced Aug. 13 they were teaming up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works during the last seven months.

“First thing I said to Roger was, ‘If this is about me performing at the Super Bowl, then we can just end this conversation now,’ ” Jay-Z said.

The league plans to use Roc Nation — home to Rihanna, DJ Khaled and other stars — to consult on and co-produce its entertainment presentations, including the Super Bowl halftime show.

The NFL also will work with Jay-Z’s company to help its Inspire Change initiative, created by the league after an agreement with a coalition of players who demonstrated during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice in this country.

Those demonstrations were sparked by NFL player Colin Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in 2016 to protest the police killings of African-Americans. Some called Mr. Kaepernick unpatriotic, and he has not played for the NFL since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.

Earlier this year, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by Mr. Kaepernick and NFL player Eric Reid that alleged that owners colluded to keep them from playing in the league. (Mr. Reid criticized Jay-Z’s new deal with the league).

When asked Aug. 14 why he didn’t involve Mr. Kaepernick in the new Roc Nation-NFL deal, Jay-Z said, “You’d have to ask him. I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.”

Jay-Z also said he and Mr. Kaepernick had a conversation about the new deal but offered no details about what was discussed.

Mr. Kaepernick didn’t comment on the deal, but tweeted about his social justice work on Aug. 14.

“Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression. I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!” he wrote.

“Everyone’s saying, ‘How are you going forward if Kaep doesn’t have a job?’ ” Jay-Z said. “This was not about him having a job. That became part of it,” Jay-Z said. “We know what it is — now how do we address that injustice? What’s the way forward?’”

Jay-Z added that “the NFL has a huge platform and we can use that huge platform. I believe real change is had through conversation, real conversation and real work ... and what better way to do it than where the conversation first took place.”

Jay-Z said he is not performing at the 2020 halftime show, which his company will co-produce, and said he turned down the offer in the past because he “didn’t like the process.”