NFL and Jay-Z Partner on Music and Social Justice Campaign

The National Football League (NFL) and rapper and business mogul Jay-Z are joining forces in a new deal that names the rapper’s Roc Nation the league’s “live music entertainment strategist.”

Jay-Z, through Roc Nation, will consult on entertainment and help with the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change.

Roc Nation will advise the NFL on entertainment events, including the Super Bowl, as part of the long-term deal. The firm will also collaborate with artists not on its roster to create and distribute music across several music and streaming services as well as consult on the production, promotion, and marketing of live music events.

Some plans for the collaboration include hosting a Pro Bowl community concert, producing original music and artists podcast, and releasing a live visual album. Jay-Z, who has declined to perform at the Super Bowl in the past, will not be required to do so under the new partnership.

The entertainment and sports firm will also help enhance the Inspire Change initiative, a platform run by the league and its players focusing on education, improving police-community relations, and criminal justice reform, according to ESPN.

“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country,” Jay-Z said in a statement.

“Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas — instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”

In an interview with The New York Times, Jay-Z said the league has a big platform and it must be all inclusive. “They were willing to do some things, to make some changes, that we can do some good,” he said.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he is excited about the opportunities the deal brings, ESPN reported. “The NFL and Roc Nation share a vision of inspiring meaningful social change across our country,” Goodell said. “We are thrilled to partner with Roc Nation and look forward to making a difference in our communities together.”

Goodell told The New York Times that the league wants to partner up with organizations that will hold it accountable. “We don’t want people to come in and necessarily agree with us; we want people to come in and tell us what we can do better,” he said during an interview in his New York office.

Despite Goodell’s assertions that the league wants to be held to account, no NFL team has employed former quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who led silent protests against racial injustice and police brutality as a player for the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick inspired players across the league and athletes in other sports to take a knee during the national anthem to draw attention to these issues. Two US athletes recently protested the national anthem during the Pan-American Games in Lima, Peru.

Team owners, league executives, and players have been divided on the protests. According to The New York Times, the NFL and a coalition of players reached a deal near the end of the 2017 season that involved investing as much as $89 million in the span of six years to social justice causes selected by the players. In January, that initiative was rebranded as Inspire Change.

Kaepernick and fellow former 49ers player Eric Reid reached a multimillion-dollar settlement after they filed grievances that accused the NFL of colluding to keep them off the field after they decided to kneel during the anthem. While Kaepernick has yet to get a contract with a team, Reid is currently a safety for the Carolina Panthers.

Jay-Z, once one of the leading champions of Kaepernick’s protests, is now facing criticism for his partnership with the NFL. Critics from all sides of the aisle are questioning the deal, including Reid, Fox News contributor Tomi Lahren, and The North Star CEO and founder Shaun King.

In a series of tweets the Panthers player called the partnership “disingenuous” and said it was a way for the league to act “like they care about people of color.”

Reid acknowledged that he continues to play for an NFL team but said he will continue to be “a royal pain in the NFL’s a— for acting like they care about people of color by forming numerous disingenuous partnerships to address social injustice while collectively blackballing Colin, the person who brought oppression and social injustice to the forefront of the NFL platform.”

King aimed his criticisms straight at the music mogul, who he called a “woke capitalist.” He wrote: “Woke describes his capitalism, but let’s be clear, he’s a capitalist, and if a good deal comes along, even if it means working with the NFL at the expense of Colin Kaepernick, he’ll make the deal. That’s what he just did.”

Lahren, a controversial young conservative known for racist comments, said the deal showed the “league doesn’t hate America and law enforcement officers at a level satisfactory enough for the former drug dealer.”

Roc Nation and the NFL officially announced the deal on August 14. The financial terms of the agreement are not available. Neither company could be reached for immediate comment.


About the Author

Nicole Rojas is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has published in various venues, including Newsweek, GlobalPost, IHS Jane’s Defence Weekly, and the Long Island Post. Nicole graduated from Boston University in 2012 with a degree in print journalism. She is an avid world traveler who recently explored Asia and Australia.