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Jay-Z Talks NFL Deal, Colin Kaepernick: ‘I Can’t Control the World We Live in’

In an interview published hours after news broke of his surprise music-and-social-justice deal with the NFL, Jay-Z said one of his goals in the deal is to create a platform where statements of protest from players like former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has essentially been drummed out of the N.F.L. for kneeling during the National Anthem, wouldn’t “have to take place on the field.”

Jay said on Monday that he hasn’t spoken with Kaepernick but hopes to do so soon. (Reps for Jay-Z, Kaepernick and multiple artists either declined or did not immediately respond to Variety’s requests for comment).

“He absolutely brought this conversation alive,” Jay-Z told the Wall Street Journal of Kaepernick. “We like to think that the way we build the [NFL’s social-awareness program] Inspire Change platform, that if anything close to that would happen in the future, then Kaepernick would have a platform where he can express himself and maybe it doesn’t have to take place on the field.”

In the same interview, NFL Commission Roger Goodell said the league has sent letters inviting Kaepernick into the conversation on the league’s efforts, apparently without receiving a response.

Without naming names, Jay also said that working with people whose political opinions he doesn’t share with is a part of doing business.

“I’m black. That’s my world,” he said, adding that if he didn’t do business with wealthy business interests who he may disagree with politically, “then I couldn’t have any TV shows. I couldn’t put my platform on TV because I’m sure someone who owns the broadcast network has supported someone who I don’t believe should be in office.

“I can’t control, no one can control the world that we live in currently and people’s choice to vote self interests,” he continued, referring to “very, very rich people.”

Jay has criticized the NFL harshly in the past, turning down offers to perform during halftime (rapping in the song “Apesh–,” “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 say he even tried to talk Travis Scott out of performing with Maroon 5 at this year’s Super Bowl Halftime, presumably out of support for Kaepernick.

He also said in the Monday interview, in a line that was not quoted directly, that he felt comfortable becoming a leading voice for the Inspire Change because of the league’s ability to reach so many different people, even though he may not agree with the politics of some NFL team owners.

Goodell praised Jay-Z’s influence and impact on several generations of fans. “There’s really no one quite like him,” Goodell said. “When we talked about doing something together, the one thing that really stood out is both of us wanted to have an impact.”

The article concludes with Jay-Z essentially defending what some might perceive as sleeping with the enemy.

“We’re going through a tough time,” he said. “A lot of people are not agreeing with one another. And we have to just push it along a little bit. There’s no magic pill. No one is going to have the solution themselves. You just have to do your little thing to push it along.”

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