Sean Carter, better known as Jay-Z, wears many hats these days: Father, husband, billionaire, entrepreneur, rapper. The man who became famous for his lyrics has travelled down new avenues to be more than just a rapper. He’s a businessman with clout in many different industries. While some may bring up his ownership of the Brooklyn Nets as failure, can we really define the venture of owning a professional organization in your home borough a true failure?

Jay-Z’s latest venture has him catching some backlash from anti-NFL protesters. The former rapper struck a deal with the league, with his Roc Nation company being hired as the NFL’s “Live Music Entertainment Strategist.” The deal ensures that Jay-Z and his company have direct input on any live music put on by the league, including the much-hyped Super Bowl halftime performance. The move provides both a lucrative financial and creative windfall for a man already situated near the peak of varying industries. 

Jay-Z is certainly a fixture in the music community. The NFL has been criticized for its halftime selections in years past, from the Janet Jackson fiasco to a lack of local talent being highlighted during the Super Bowl. The league definitely needs help tapping into a culturally appropriate act — especially as it relates to reaching reaching out to its eclectic consumer base. The partnership seems too good to be true. If you fly back through time and consider the stance he took against the NFL not too long ago, it actually is somewhat unfathomable. Which has led to some outrage aimed at Jay-Z.

As CEO of Roc Nation, Jay has grown what used to be a musically-specific agency to expand its portfolio towards sports and interests and beyond. Currently, the company has come under fire based on an inflammatory statement from its head honcho. “I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action,”Jay-Z remarked at a press conference to finalize a deal between his company and the NFL. Fans and acquaintances of the CEO were baffled and betrayed to hear about the agreement. Jay was notorious for his philanthropic pursuits, spending time and money advocating for numerous social justice causes. From his charitable donations to marching in protest in support of victims of police violence, Jay-Z’s impact on social communities has been unquestioned. Until now. 

It all goes back to Colin Kaepernick’s protest of racial inequality in America. If you’re unaware of what I’m referring to here, feel free to read The Intention of Misdirection, which discusses the situation surrounding Kaepernick and NFL players taking a knee during the National Anthem. After, the former Niners’ QB was released — essentially blackballed from the NFL — many stars spoke up about Kap’s situation. Among them was Jay-Z, who advocated for fellow artists to protest the Super Bowl by not watching or participating in its halftime show. That’s the same man who years later was pictured shaking hands with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to consummate a multi-million dollar deal. 

Doing what’s best for business has caused some to label the Roc Nation leader a traitor. Once an advocate for Kaepernick’s protest, Jay’s 180 to align himself with the league is troublesome. Jay-Z has prioritized business ahead of culture. It’s a decision that has been met with criticism since the deal was announced in early August. Carolina Panthers’ safety — and former teammate of Colin Kaepernick — Eric Reid has been outspoken with his displeasure of the news. 

“Jay-Z claimed to be a supporter of Colin, wore his jersey, told people not to perform at the Super Bowl because of [what] the NFL did to Colin,” he said. “Now he’s going to be a part owner, that’s kind of despicable.”

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Reid’s point is a sentiment that has been shared among Kaepernick’s sympathizers who want to see the former quarterback gain employment in the league once again. The controversy has raised an interesting question: 

Does Black ownership supercede the struggle against the systemic racism of corporate America?

Jay-Z is the first hip-hop billionaire the music industry has ever witnessed. As mentioned earlier, he did have an ownership stake in the Brooklyn Nets in the NBA, but it was less than a single percent of the team, according to Rolling Stone Magazine. If we’re to believe that Jay-Z is truly interested in becoming the first Black owner in NFL history, it’s a savvy move to partner with the league. The league boasts an annual revenue in the neighbourhood of $25 billion. It’s a lucrative business, but extremely exclusive — they’ve got a really strict screening process. The sale of any franchise has to be approved by a majority of the other franchise owners in the league. Aside from ownership for that other Fùtebol, the NFL is the most difficult league for a billionaire to join. 

Former NFL and social activistColin Kaepernick (left) vs. Roger Goodell (right) and the NFL establishment. Where does Jay-Z fit into this ongoing feud?

The burgeoning relationship with the league will come at the expense of Jay-Z’s carefully built public image . While there were rumours of infidelity according to a few tracks from his songstress wife Beyonce, the mogul has avoided major scandal throughout his career. But his statement that kneeling is no longer a proper form of protest — a direct shot at Kap, whether intentional or not — firmly aligns Jay-Z with NFL ownership in the ongoing public perception battle. 

What makes Kaepernick so beloved among his supporters is his unwavering belief in his means and message. Despite not playing in the NFL since 2016, the former quarterback has not wavered in his goal to use his platform to bring to light the inequalities that are growing instead of shrinking across the country. Kaepernick, who has been out of work for nearly three years has become a spokesman for Nike and featured in his own charitable endeavors away from the field. In a sense, Kaepernick is more like the ‘common man’ than Jay-Z, who walks among the one percent — despite his own humble beginnings. 

It’s a no-win scenario. Can Jay-Z move up the corporate ladder without compromising his ethics? If there’s one thing that the mogul got wrong, it’s announcing that the sport is past kneeling. With a statement such as that, the next hat the mogul dons won’t be labelled ‘Owner’… it will spell out H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E. 

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