Colin Kaepernick and teammates Eli Herald and Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem
Eli Harold #58, Colin Kaepernick #7 and Eric Reid #35 of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest on the sideline, during the anthem, prior to the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on October 16, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. The Bills defeated the 49ers 45-16. (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)
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Jay-Z's deal with NFL sparks fury over possible ownership deal

Colin Kaepernick and teammates Eli Herald and Eric Reid kneeling during the national anthem
Eli Harold (left), Colin Kaepernick (center) and Eric Reid of the San Francisco 49ers kneel in protest on the sideline, during the anthem during a 2016 game.  (Photo by Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty Images)

Did Jay-Z sell out Colin Kaepernick?

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Jay-z's support provided an even larger, global platform for protests against social injustice, but when he agreed to work with the NFL critics saw the move as a personal money grab and not furthering the cause of fighting against injustice.

Days after announcing Roc Nation would work with the NFL on music and social justice issues, Jay-Z’s motivation was questioned after TMZ reported  the music mogul would become the first African-American to have significant ownership stake in a team. Critics claimed the artist sold out to the league for that ownership stake.

Questions about Jay-Z’s partnership with the league came under fire after he said “we’ve moved past kneeling” when asked about social justice issues during a news conference with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. A reporter had asked the entertainer about former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence and social injustice. 

“For one, when has Jay-Z ever taken a knee to come out and tell us that we're past kneeling?” former Kaepernick teammate and fellow protester Eric Reid said. “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 and say that we’re past kneeling? Again, asinine. Players Coalition 2.0, he got paid to take the bullets he’s taking now because we're not having it."

TMZ said Jay-Z wants to become a part owner “because he’s a huge fan, already has a sports business and wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.”

TMZ did not indicate which team he would have part ownership.

According to ESPN,  Reid, who wore a black No. 7 Kaepernick jersey with #IMWITHKAP on the front, knelt during the anthem during the Aug. 16 preseason game.

“The [injustice] that’s happened to Colin, they get to say, ‘Look, we care about social justice, we care about the black community because we’re with Jay-Z,’ ” Reid said. “Jay-Z is doing the work for them. We all know that it's unjust that Colin isn't in an NFL locker room, the way he lost his job. But they get to pretend they care about social justice.”

“Jay-Z made a money move,” Reid said. “He’s capitalized on this situation. Nobody to my knowledge talked about social justice before Colin started protesting. That was not a topic of the NFL off the field. For Jay-Z to come in and partner to address social justice, do it behind Colin's back, get paid to do it ... I don't have words.”

Jay-Z, who has been involved in numerous social justice issues including directly funding projects ranging from offering financial support to victims of police violence to donating to charities, had used his platform to praise Kaepernick’s protest.

The New York Times reported one journalist said the new partnership seemed similar to “putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound when it seems like Colin is getting blackballed by the N.F.L.”


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We will never turn our backs on @kaepernick7 because your idols decided to work with the same organization that is actively keeping Colin unemployed all because he peacefully protested against social injustice in black and brown communities, specifically police brutality. So really, how can Jay-Z and the NFL utter social justice in their partnership while keeping Colin unemployed because of his social justice work? • • It’s typical for the NFL to buy different PR looks to cover up their dirt-that’s nothing new. But what is disgusting and disappointing is Jay-Z let them use him. Whether Jay-Z knew it or not (I don’t doubt his intelligence-so I would think he knew) he helped the NFL bury who he said is an iconic figure, Colin Kaepernick. • • Don’t tell me there’s a “master plan and wait for it” because the ONLY reason anything would ever change is because THE PEOPLE are loud and clear and won’t let the league buy their loyalty with their disingenuous moves. The people are letting the league and anyone who works with them know that they aren’t buying the bs. • • Thank you all so much for showing Colin so much support and love. I know for myself, I can’t thank y’all enough for loving my family. • #imwithkap #nokapnonfl ❤️❤️❤️ • • #RP: @kaepernick7: ‪You never turned your back on me or the people, even when the nfl tried to silence your voice & the movement. You’ve never flinched or wavered. I love you Brother! Let’s get it! @E_Reid35‬ ‪ And to the people - I see you, I hear you and I love you! Thank you for having my back!!!✊?‬ • • ?: @relrelrelrel @djtonedef

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According to ProFootballTalk Patriots owner Robert Kraft  played a role in the RocNation/NFL deal.  

As P.R. Lockhart wrote on Vox: “For the NFL, Kaepernick’s power has presented a problem. While much of the media attention on public opinions of Kaepernick’s protest has focused on conservative-leaning Americans and supporters of President Trump, the league’s actions have also affected its standing with black viewers, some of whom have stopped watching NFL games as the quarterback remains unemployed. As the Undefeated’s Justin Tinsley explains, “the league needs to recover its cultural cachet, and a big part of that means reaching out to black fans.”

Black musicians — some of whom are affiliated with Jay-Z — have also declined to appear on the Super Bowl stage in recent years. Rihanna and Cardi B, for example, reportedly said no to doing this year’s halftime show out of solidarity with Kaepernick. It’s possible Jay-Z’s presence could be enough to convince some of these artists to return to an NFL stage.”

Jay-Z was a part owner of the Brooklyn Nets but sold his interest in 2013. His  comments did not sit well with athletes like Kaepernick or Eric Reid, who said the entertainer had sold out to the league. 

Kaepernick has not played in the league since 2016. 

Editor’s note: The Global Sport Institute tracks the social justice activities of NFL teams. Check out our season-ending report.

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