The National Football League and Roc Nation today announced the first elements of their controversial new partnership: An apparel line called “Inspire Change” and a “Songs of the Season concert series, the first of which will take place in Chicago’s Grant Park on Sept. 5 and feature Meek Mill, Meghan Trainor and Rapsody.
The programs were announced during a press conference in New York earlier this month. The apparel line is “a new social enterprise model,” according to the announcement, that “will fund and support Inspire Change programs across the country,” including such “key priorities” as education and economic empowerment, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform,” although it does not specify which specific organizations are involved. The Inspire Change apparel line, designed by artists, will be available later in the 2019 season.
Songs of the Season is a multi-tier, season-long initiative that will highlight superstars and emerging artists of all genres. The selected musicians will create and deliver a song to be integrated in all NFL promotions each month during the season. The songs will debut during an in-game broadcast and will be simultaneously released to all digital streaming platforms worldwide. All proceeds from the songs will go toward Inspire Change.
Meek Mill, Meghan Trainor and Rapsody will be the first Inspire Change advocates of the 2019 Season and will perform a free concert at the “NFL Kickoff Experience” in Chicago’s Grant Park on Thursday, September 5. Also performing will be Chicago-based DJ Pharris.
A portion of Meek Mill and Meghan Trainor’s performance will be featured in simulcast coverage of the 40-minute pregame show from Chicago from 7:30 – 8:10 PM ET on NBC and NFL Network.
The partnership was officially announced by Jay-Z and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell at an Aug. 14 press conference at Roc Nation’s New York offices.
While the conference was generally genial, at times the exchanges between the two and reporters became contentious with regard to San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, whose controversial symbolic kneeling during the National Anthem to protest racial inequality in the U.S. has essentially seen him drummed out of the league.
Jay and Goodell said that they both have had conversations with Kaepernick, but declined to reveal any details about those conversations, or what his stance on the partnership may be.
“I would never tell you what me and Kap’s private conversation was about,” Jay said, “but we spoke, yeah.” Reps for the quarterback later contested the pair’s characterization of the conversations.
Earlier, asked how he could enter into this partnership while Kaepernick remains without a team, Jay said, “I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice so in that case this is a success — this is the next thing. There’s two parts of protest: the protest, and then there’s a company or individual saying ‘I hear you, what do we do next?’ For me it’s about actionable items, what are we gonna do about it? We get stuck on Colin not having a job, you know what I’m saying? And this is more than that.
“I support any protest that’s effective,” he continued. “I’m into action, I’m into real work — I’m not into how it looks from the outside. If protesting on the field is the most effective way, then protest on the field. But if you have a vehicle that can inspire change and speak to the masses at the same time, it’s hard to steal the narrative away.”
Asked if Kaepernick has been blackballed, Goodell said that “any team” can sign him.