Jay-Z will soon acquire a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team, TMZ reported on Friday. The team was not disclosed, but a source told the site the deal will happen in the “near future,” adding that the billionaire rapper “wants to continue to be a change agent for the NFL.” Jay-Z’s company, Roc Nation, recently struck a deal with the NFL encompassing entertainment and social justice.
Contacted by Variety, a rep for the rapper had no comment.
Jay and NFL commissioner Roger Goodell held a press conference announcing the deal on Wednesday, where they were peppered with questions from reporters regarding Jay’s previous criticism of the league and his stance on former 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 largely deflected the questions with statements such as, “I think we’re past kneeling, I think it’s time for action” and by extolling the benefits of “a vehicle that can inspire change and speak to the masses at the same time.”
Such a deal would make Jay-Z the first black team owner in league history, Bleacher Report notes, adding that many insiders say he has long wanted to own an NFL franchise. “The deal with the NFL nudges Jay-Z far closer to that goal, if that indeed is the objective,” said Mike Florio of ProFootballTalk. “He now has a formal relationship with the league, giving other owners a chance to get to know him well, naturally allowing the development of a familiarity that most potential owners never have when they show up and try to buy a team.”
Jay previously owned a share of the NBA’s Brooklyn Nets, in which he purchased a $1 million stake in 2004. He sold his share nine years later for $2.35 million because it conflicted with his Roc Nation Sports management division. Asked about such a conflict with the NFL, sources told TMZ, “Jay is not an NFL agent and does not take part in the operations of the NFL players in Roc Nation.”
Jay has encountered a wave of criticism over the deal, the likes of which he has not often seen in his career. Multiple critical editorials followed in the days after news of the deal broke, with The Atlantic’s Jemele Hill writing a long article titled “Jay-Z Helped the NFL Banish Colin Kaepernick.”
While quarterback himself did not comment directly on the deal, he tweeted a couple of hours after Wednesday’s press conference: “Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression. I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!” He also retweeted statements of support from filmmaker Ava DuVernay, rapper J. Cole and former teammate Eric Reid.