×

Jay-Z Joins Forces With N.F.L. for Music and Social Justice Campaign

The N.F.L., which has been lambasted with criticism over its treatment of Colin Kaepernick and other players kneeling during the national anthem, today made a major stride toward image rehabilitation when news broke that the organization has signed a deal with Jay-Z that will encompass entertainment and social justice efforts.

According to the New York Times, the deal with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports company, calls for the firm to be the N.F.L.’s “live music entertainment strategist,” which will entail Roc Nation and Jay-Z consulting on entertainment, including the Super Bowl halftime show, and contributing to the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change.

“The N.F.L. has a great big platform, and it has to be all-inclusive,” Jay-Z said in an interview this week. “They were willing to do some things, to make some changes, that we can do some good.” Reps for Roc Nation did not immediately respond to Variety‘s request for further comment.

The move marks a turn for Jay, who criticized the N.F.L. in the past and admitted in his song with Beyonce “Apesh—“ that he had turned down offers to perform during the Super Bowl, telling the league during the song, “You need me, I don’t need you/ Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too.”

At a Miami concert in 2017, Jay told the audience,  “I want y’all to understand, when people are kneeling and putting their fists up in the air and doing what they’re doing, it’s not about the flag, it’s about justice. It’s about injustice. And that’s not a black or white thing, it’s a human issue.” Sources also said that Jay tried to talk Travis Scott out of performing with Maroon 5 during this year’s halftime show; the group struggled to find black artists to perform with them during their halftime show, and ultimately were joined by Scott and Outkast rapper Big Boi.

The league and its team owners have effectively shut Kaepernick out since the 2016 season, when he began kneeling during the National Anthem to protest the treatment of African-Americans by police and other authorities.

The deal was scheduled to be announced on Wednesday morning, but was leaked by the Front Office Sports website.

N.F.L. Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Times that the league wants partners who tell it when it behaves improperly.

“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,” Goodell said. “I think that’s a core element of our relationship between the two organizations, and with Jay and I personally.”

The Kaepernick issue has divided the league, entertainers and much of American society.

In 2017, the league negotiated a deal with a group of players that included contributing as much as $89 million over six years to social justice causes that the players would choose. That campaign, which was renamed Inspire Change in January, donates money to groups fighting for criminal justice reform, opportunities in economically challenged areas and better relations between the police and local communities.

While the partnership gives Jay-Z a role in selecting and producing the country’s most-watched music performance — the 12-minute Super Bowl halftime show is seen by more than 100 million people each year — it also brings the risk of being seen as co-opted and neutralized by an organization he once criticized.

One of the most prominent champions of Kaepernick’s cause, Jay-Z once called him “an iconic figure” akin to Muhammad Ali, and wore a custom version of Kaepernick’s jersey when he performed on “Saturday Night Live” in 2017.

 

More Music

  • CDBaby logo

    CD Baby Is Shutting Down Its Retail Store

    As if the name “CD Baby” weren’t already an anachronism, the independent distributor announced late last week that it is shutting down its retail store, although it will continue to distribute physical product through other channels. “CD Baby’s mission is to help artists monetize and promote their music in the best ways possible,” a message [...]

  • Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters

    Foo Fighters Reveal 'Van Tour' Dates to Mark 25th Anniversary

    The Foo Fighters are revisiting their past with a tour to commemorate their first-ever outing as a band in 1995. Dubbed “The Van Tour,” the spring trek will kick off in Phoenix on April 12 and wrap in Hamilton, Ontario on May 12. Each stop will feature a sneak peek at frontman Dave Grohl’s new [...]

  • Harry Styles arrives for the Brit

    Harry Styles Walks Brit Awards Red Carpet After Reported Robbery in London

    Harry Styles walked the red carpet at the Brit Awards in London Tuesday night, shortly after it was reported that he was robbed at knifepoint in his Hampstead neighborhood three nights earlier. Without naming Styles by name, Scotland Yard confirmed Tuesday that an incident seeming to match the circumstances of the alleged assault on the [...]

  • Amazon Music Puts Spotlight on Kane

    'Velocity' Puts Spotlight on Kane Brown as Subject of Amazon Music's Fifth Mini-Doc

    For the fifth entry in its line of mini-documentaries, Amazon Music is putting the spotlight on Kane Brown with a behind-the-scenes look at the young country star that will arrive Thursday, accompanied by a live EP. “Velocity” captures moments leading up to Brown’s headlining appearance at L.A.’s Staples Center Jan. 9, with his wife, managers, [...]

  • American alternative rock band Pearl Jam

    Pearl Jam Tell Congressmen BOSS Ticket-Reform Act Is ‘Flawed’

    UPDATED: The BOSS Act is legislation designed to crack down on improper practices in the secondary ticket market — bots, price-gougers and the like — spearheaded by New Jersey Democratic Congressmen Bill Pascrell and Frank Pallone Jr. The bill, which is officially named the “Better Oversight of Secondary Sales and Accountability in Concert Ticketing Act” [...]

  • Sofar Sounds Unveils a Battery of

    Sofar Sounds Unveils a Battery of New Programs for Artists

    Sofar Sounds — which has made a name and a business for itself by staging “secret gigs and intimate concerts” featuring emerging artists for an invited, engaged audience — today unveiled a series of new programs intended to serve artists better, including a new payment model that will see artists paid more for playing bigger [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content