Episode 78 - Jay-Z was wrong

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Transcript, Web links and Credits below.


As you may have seen or heard, the NFL just announced a wide-ranging partnership with Jay-Z and his company, Roc Nation, mainly to promote music, but also to promote social justice work. Today I’m going to be open, raw, and honest about how I feel about this deal.

Let’s dig in.

This is Shaun King and you are listening to (The Breakdown)!


Now I told you that I was just going to say how I really feel about this. And listen, feel free to disagree.

I’m deeply disappointed in Jay-Z.

I’m deeply disappointed that he formed this partnership with the NFL.

I’m deeply disappointed to learn that he has been privately negotiating this partnership for over a year without ever mentioning a word of it to Colin Kaepernick, even though they spoke countless times.

I’m deeply disappointed at several things Jay-Z said in his press conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell yesterday.

I’m deeply disappointed in several things Jay-Z said in multiple media interviews yesterday.

And here’s what I know: In our community, we have sacred figures who’ve grown so loved, and so admired that you simply don’t dare critique them publicly — even if it’s warranted. In our community we have some people who are so revered that we are blinded — even to their biggest mistakes. The Obamas are on that level. Oprah is on that level. I think Jay-Z and Beyonce are now on that level. Such that, even if they make a real mistake, it’s hard to criticize them because of just how much people love them.

And I think that’s where we are right now, but I have to say what I have to say. First and foremost, as a personal friend of Colin Kaepernick, as someone who advised him and spoke with him often while he was taking a knee, but I also have to say what I have to say as a historian, as someone who understands the historical significance of what Colin Kaepernick has done, and the price he is still paying at this very moment. So I’m putting all of my cards on the table.

Colin Kaepernick is in the prime of his physical life and has had his career stolen from him by the NFL. Not a single NFL player believes that Colin Kaepernick is out of the league for football reasons — not one. This league has over 100 quarterbacks. Half are older than him. Two thirds have never won a playoff game. 90% have never been to a Pro Bowl. 95% have never taken their team to the Super Bowl. Colin has done all of those things. He has records in the NFL that stand to this day.

It’s not just that the NFL banned him once from the league, the NFL is actively banning this man from the league right now. Teams need him right now, but not a single one of them will cross that line to do so. He is a kind, soft-spoken, and compassionate man. He’s never been in trouble a day in his life. He’s brilliantly smart and I don’t just say that as a friend — his score on the Wonderlic test for NFL quarterbacks was the highest of his draft. His grades were strong enough to get into Harvard and Yale. The man was going to grad school in his spare time while he was in the NFL.

And yet, he’s still banned. And I can’t get past that. You cannot actively ban the most courageous athlete of our generation from your league while simultaneously saying you care about social justice, that you care about police brutality and mass incarceration and Civil Rights.

You cannot actively ban the man who sparked this conversation in the first place, ban him for sparking this conversation, AND say that you now want to continue the conversation — but without him, while you still penalize him for sparking it.

Yesterday was actually the 3-year anniversary of the first day Colin Kaepernick took a knee in the NFL and for the NFL to make this announcement — on that day that they are forming a new partnership with Jay-Z — is disgusting.

And here’s the thing, and I said I was going to be real, if you are my friend, my true friend, I can’t be friends with somebody who has done you wrong. I can’t be friends with somebody who literally stole your career, is actively stealing your career, and if you saw the press conference yesterday, Jay-Z and Roger Goodell looked like old friends. They loved each other.

We learned this morning that they’ve met at least 5 times over the past year about this — flying out to meet with each other over and over again.

And I’ll close with this thought — I was particularly disgusted to hear Jay-Z say, “We’re past kneeling.” First off, you’ve never kneeled. And saying that we’re past it is a slap in the face of brave men like Kenny Stills of the Dolphins and Eric Reid of the Panthers, who are still kneeling.

But here’s the deal — if any of this surprises you about Jay-Z, you haven’t been listening to his music. He’s a capitalist above all else. It hurts, but it’s not surprising. This is who he is.


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Produced by Willis Polk II