On Tuesday, Roc Nation announced that it will be the new “live music entertainment strategist” for the NFL. At a press conference Wednesday at the Roc Nation offices, Jay-Z answered questions about the deal alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell. One of the most controversial aspects surrounding the new partnership is its arrival after Jay’s years-long criticism of the league’s handling of Colin Kaepernick’s peaceful protest against police brutality, which other players also took up.
“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” Jay said during the conference. “So in that case, this is a success; this is the next thing. ‘Cause there’s two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’ So for me it was like, action, actionable item, what are we going to do with it? Everyone heard and we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying. So what are we going to do? So we should, millions of millions of people, and all we get stuck on [is] Colin not having a job.”
Roc Nation’s deal with the NFL is not connected to Kaepernick. Jay told the room he isn’t the former quarterback’s boss, therefore he cannot ask him to join anything. “I’m not knocking anything he’s doing, and I hope he doesn’t knock what I’m doing,” Jay said. He also confirmed that he had spoken to Kaepernick prior to announcing the deal, but would not divulge any details of their conversation.
Goodell was later asked if the partnership is “disingenuous,” considering many people believe that Kaepernick was blackballed by the league. “We talked about a variety of issues. I think when we first met we talked about entertainment and how we do that, but the number one thing we went to was impact,” Goodell explained. “We can have an impact together. We can do some really positive things in our community. So to go to Jay’s point, we listen to our players. We understood what our players were saying and we created a platform, in which to help drive change in communities that Colin has raised and that other players have raised. This partnership in addition to the entertainment aspect of branded football and music together is going to help us make even greater change. We call it protest to progress.”
On Wednesday, Kaepernick posted a video on Instagram to commemorate “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!,” he wrote. “The movement has always lived with the people!”
The partnership, as laid out during Wednesday’s meeting will cover a mixture of live events, content production, and social justice projects that will be guided by Jay’s Roc Nation and attempt to harness the NFL’s massive audience. The talks between the two parties, according to Jay, began after he was offered a Super Bowl performance last year. He turned it down, and Maroon 5’s subsequent performance was roundly dismissed by audiences; the Roc Nation deal will have the company deeply advising who will be performing, as well as creative directing the performance. The Super Bowl halftime show will later be released as a concert film on all streaming services.
Also going to streaming services will be five songs, by to-be-announced artists, that the NFL will use as promotional songs during television broadcasts. The proceeds of each song will go towards a charitable grant of each artist’s choosing (In a hypothetical scenario, Jay said that if Chance the Rapper were to be one of the aforementioned artists, he would likely direct the proceeds towards the public school system). Additionally, the partnership will lead to artist and player podcasts, original documentaries, and playlists on all streaming services.
Additional reporting by Brendan Klinkenberg