Jay-Z partnering with the NFL sounded on the surface like an alliance with promise to make progress on the league’s contentious relationship with social justice issues.
But once the details of the deal surfaced — most notably that Colin Kaepernick was not involved — the alliance was met with widespread backlash from critics blasting the rap mogul for partnering with a league that still doesn’t employ the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback.
Players, media critics and entertainers alike called into question Jay-Z’s motives, which many criticized as capital over social change.
While fiscal details of the alliance weren’t divulged, it’s assumed the deal’s a lucrative one for the billionaire businessman who has long touted his focus on climbing the financial ladder.
What was Jay-Z thinking?
The partnership raises myriad questions, with a pair standing out.
Did Jay-Z not see this backlash coming? If so, did he just not care?
Jay-Z’s prominent critics
The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill was one of the deal’s most pointed critics, condemning Jay-Z for helping the NFL wash itself of Kaepernick, whose social justice protests during the national anthem led to his departure from the league.
“By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy,” Hill wrote. “Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.”
“Jay-Z and Ross are trying to play both sides,” Jones wrote. “Each wants the world to know he may be an apex predator capitalist, but, beneath the cold cynicism that made each rich, there’s a heart of gold and he wants to fix the wrongs of the world.
“I mean, it’s possible that’s true. But few become billionaires by being good. Helping uninvested parties isn’t as lucrative as hurting them.”
‘A money move’
Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, a longtime ally of Kaepernick’s and champion of social justice issues, chastised Jay-Z for making “a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin.”
(2/2) to get Colin’s job back as well. Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community.
— Eric Reid (@E_Reid35) August 15, 2019
Backlash from an ally
Even Rihanna, one of Jay-Z’s strongest allies in the entertainment business, appeared to take issue with her mentor, liking an Instagram post from social activist Shaun King titled “Jay-Z was wrong” that described the rapper’s deal with the NFL as “shady.”
Meanwhile, Jay-Z was touting the deal alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, seemingly unaware or uncaring about the attacks on his reputation.
So again: Did he not anticipate the backlash? Or did he move forward not caring that it was coming?
We haven’t heard from Jay-Z since his news conference alongside Goodell.
Jay-Z, the NFL owner?
What we have heard since then is a vague TMZ report that Jay-Z “is going to have a ‘significant ownership interest’ in an NFL team.”
“Interest” in this context means ownership stake. The report didn’t name a team or any details beyond Jay-Z’s supposed desire to get into the ownership business, so it’s best to be taken at face value. Which isn’t much.
Reid addresses ‘sellout’ question
Reid addressed the ownership rumor Friday night and whether he thinks Jay-Z is a sellout.
Eric Reid on whether he thinks Jay Z is a sellout pic.twitter.com/JXDw5Dzo5H
— Tadd Haislop (@TaddHaislop) August 17, 2019
“It’s approaching that,” Reid said before suggesting the Jay-Z should sign Kaepernick if he does get involved in NFL ownership.
Reid also called Jay-Z’s contention that NFL players are past kneeling to protest social injustice and police brutality “asinine.”
Eric Reid on Jay Z kneeling statement: “When has Jay Z ever taken a knee? For you get paid to go into a NFL conference and say we are past kneeling is asinine.” pic.twitter.com/BO9RCLUHek
— Ashley Holder (@AshNoelleTV) August 17, 2019
“For one, when has Jay-Z ever taken a knee to come out and tell us that we’re past kneeling? Yes he’s done a lot of great work, a lot of great social justice work.
“But for you to get paid to go into an NFL press conference to say that we’re past kneeling? Again, asinine.”
Reid’s take sums up the angst facing Jay-Z in light of his new partnership with the league.
Meanwhile, the ownership rumor feeds into the narrative that Jay-Z, alongside the NFL, is playing a long game — a chess match with an endgame that the rest of us don’t perceive.
Even if that’s the case, one thing is clear. He’s badly losing the battle of public perception in the short run.
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