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NFL hires Jay-Z to provide cover for treatment of Kaepernick

The NFL saw its collective honey pot crack when quarterback Colin Kaepernick and others kneeled during the national anthem before games in 2016. The reason was social justice, particularly regarding law enforcement’s treatment of African-American men, which is a demographic that makes up 75% of the players in professional football. The crack began to gush when Kaepernick, who started in a Superbowl for the 49ers and was in the prime of his career, found that no team was interested in signing him as a free agent after his seven-year contract worth $126 million was canceled after 2016. He was paid just $40 million.

Allegations of oppressive billionaire owners (none of whom are black) colluding against hiring activist players became rampant, and Kaepernick filed a grievance with the NFL, eventually receiving less than $10 million to settle earlier this year.

Entrepreneur or activist?

Now the NFL attempts to change the narrative that it is tone-deaf to racial and social issues with help from rapper/entrepreneur Jay-Z and his Roc Nation company. Jay-Z has been a vocal supporter of Kaepernick in the past and even wore his jersey in a Saturday Night Live performance. Once a drug dealer who worked on the streets of Brooklyn, the billionaire rapper has also actively sought to support media projects that highlight societal and race-based injustices in recent years.

The new $89 million partnership involving social justice and entertainment booking for games (including the Superbowl) claimed in an August 13 news conference that it would move the needle “past the kneeling.” However, Kaepernick and some of his fellow players, as well as many critics, look at it as a money grab for Roc Nation as the NFL tries to find cover for the PR beating it has taken as football TV ratings trend downward. Sweetening the pot, the NFL also offered Jay-Z opportunities for team ownership – the entertainer was once a part of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, but opted out to focus on Roc Nation and other interests. 

Kaepernick still not playing

The 2019 NFL season is just beginning with this latest chapter playing out. It is important to remember that Colin Kaepernick still does not have a team, nor has the compensation he’s received so far come close to the income he would have received if he had chosen not to kneel. The league clearly wants to regain its image of promoting social justice among minorities and being transparent about its employment practices, but Jay-Z and the league seem to be making plays that leave the quarterback and the players who support him on the sidelines.

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