Many were stunned last summer when Jay-Z unexpectedly announced that his Roc Nation company had struck an entertainment and social-awareness campaign with the NFL. After all, the rapper-mogul had harshly criticized the NFL over its treatment of 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 was defensive about the partnership at a press conference with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell last August. When asked about Kaepernick, he said they’d spoken but declined to reveal details, instead deflecting, “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.”
Jay addressed criticism more directly on “Flux Capacitor,” a song on Jay Electronica’s album released today on which the Roc Nation founder makes a guest appearance. On it, he raps:
“Why would I sell out? I’m already rich, don’t make no sense/
Got more money than Goodell, a whole NFL bench/
Did it one-handed like Odell, handcuffed to a jail/
I would’ve stayed on the sideline if they could’ve tackled that sh— themselves.”
He basically concludes that verse with a mild threat that, amusingly, incorporates Kanye West.
“You backstabbers gon’ turn me back to the old Jay/
He’s not who you wanna see, he’s not as sweet as the old Ye.”
If Jay’s verses seem to be coming curiously late after the controversy, well, Jay Electronica’s most recent release before the album that dropped today was a 2007 mixtape; he signed with Roc Nation in 2010.
No matter one’s opinion of the NFL-Roc Nation deal, it unquestionably removed a lot of the pressure from the NFL and made for a halftime show starring Jennifer Lopez and Roc Nation client Shakira that was widely praised, particularly compared with the lackluster show of the previous year, when Kaepernick-fueled criticism of the league was at its peak.