Saquon Barkley expresses support for Jay-Z's reported NFL team ownership interest

Kimberley A. MartinSenior NFL writer

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — If Jay-Z does, in fact, join the NFL ownership ranks, the rapper-turned-business mogul will have at least one supporter cheering him on.

Saquon Barkley.

The New York Giants running back — who is represented by Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports company, Roc Nation, for contracts and other football matters — was initially unaware of Hov’s plans to have “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team “in the near future,” according to TMZ. But the former Penn State star and current Giants workhorse expressed nothing but excitement at the prospect of Jay-Z having a major stake in an NFL franchise.

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“I mean, it’s Jay-Z,” Barkley told Yahoo Sports on Friday night, following the Giants’ 32-13 preseason win over the Chicago Bears at MetLife Stadium. “Obviously, he’s known as a rapper, but I think if you look at what he’s done, just with the success of building his brand, building revenue for whatever company he has, whether it’s Roc Nation or whether it’s ‘Ace of Spades’ [Jay-Z’s $300-per-bottle champagne brand, officially named, Armand de Brignac], you can see he’s a very smart businessman.

“I’ve actually been fortunate enough to sit down and have a conversation with him,” continued Barkley, who was given the night off against the Bears. “I was just asking him a lot of questions and he just had a lot of good advice. So I think him having the opportunity to own a team or have some ownership in a team is pretty dope and a cool thing for the NFL.”

Saquon Barkley had some thoughts about Jay-Z's latest involvement with the NFL. (Getty Images)
Saquon Barkley had some thoughts about Jay-Z's latest involvement with the NFL. (Getty Images)

Jay-Z was a minority owner of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets before he sold his stake in the organization in 2013. But the Jigga Man has apparently set his sights on something bigger: becoming a major player in football circles.

According to TMZ, Jay-Z wants to take his talents to the NFL “because he’s a huge fan, already has a sports business and wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.”

This latest news came on the heels of the announced partnership between Roc Nation and the NFL. Earlier this week, Jay-Z and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held a news conference to explain the agency’s new role as the league’s “live music entertaining strategist” and Jay-Z’s involvement as a consultant on the Super Bowl halftime show and the league’s activism initiative, Inspire Change, which was launched in January.

Barkley acknowledged he had “to do a little more research” on Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL, but said he wasn't surprised by the hip-hop star’s decision to team up with Goodell & Co.

“The whole background behind it was social justice,” said the second-year running back, who won the NFL's Rookie of the Year award last year. “What Roc Nation’s been doing — obviously they’re well-known for helping Meek Mill. I think they’re the right group to really help.”

Roc Nation recently released, “Free Meek,” a five-part docuseries that highlights Mill’s legal battle over the past decade. Mill — who is set to launch a Dream Chasers label with Roc Nation — also joined forces with Jay-Z to found, REFORM Alliance, an organization that aims to change laws within the criminal justice system.

Jay-Z, however, has come under fire for his new business arrangement with the NFL. Some question the rapper’s motives and the league’s authenticity in actually addressing social justice issues. Many also wonder how Jay-Z — a vocal supporter of Colin Kaepernick in the past — could strike a deal with the same league that hasn’t employed the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback after his decision to kneel during “The Star-Spangled Banner” in an attempt to draw attention to racism, police brutality and the systematic oppression of minority groups in America.

Asked during this week's news conference for his thoughts on kneeling, Jay-Z replied: “I think we have moved past kneeling. I think it is time to go into actionable items.”

Barkley, however, was surprised to learn that so many took issue with Jay-Z’s new business relationship with the NFL.

“Why?” he asked, when told that Jay-Z was catching heat. “Personally, I think it’s really about social injustice. I think it’s not just a good look, but a great thing for the NFL and a great thing out of the NFL. Obviously, it’s a great thing for Roc Nation but when you look around this world, to have a guy like Jay-Z, who’s well-known, who’s been regularly doing things with social injustice — for example, with Meek Mill, teaming up with one of the biggest known companies in the world, which is the NFL — I think that’s a pretty awesome thing.”

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