Wow, Jay-Z. Really? I know I don’t know you, but I guess I thought I knew enough about you to think that you were someone for whom principle was paramount. But, I guess that old cynicism is true. Everybody has a price. Even wealthy Forbes-ranked business moguls like you, who this year became the fifth black billionaire in the country.
When someone told me about your new deal with the NFL, I thought he’d misunderstood. Surely you — long a vocal supporter of Colin Kaepernick’s kneeling protest — could not be making a deal with the NFL? The same NFL, which, many believe, blackballed Kaepernick because of his silent protest against police killings of young black men. The same NFL which never admitted to blackballing, instead responding to lawsuits by Kaepernick and fellow kneeling protestor Eric Reid by settling out of court.
How did you go from wearing Kaepernick’s jersey last year to transacting in the name of social justice? From actually calling out the artists performing for the Superbowl halftime show to negotiating future Superbowl halftime performances with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell? And even worse, making the deal without first alerting Kaepernick? It would still be a betrayal of his and our trust, but at least you’d have been transparent about it.
Activist and columnist Shaun King took to Twitter to explain to those of us puzzled, angry and confused by this deal that you are "a proud capitalist" and that "if a good deal comes along, even if it means working with the NFL at the expense of Colin Kaepernick, he’ll make the deal." Intellectually, I understand what King is saying, but emotionally, I am deeply disappointed. I was never a rabid fan able to recite lyrics from every hit song (and in truth, some I don’t want to say out loud). But I have long applauded how you’ve used your artistry to both build a historic career and to develop other musical artists. More recently, I’ve been proud of the way that you’ve used your enormous pop culture/business platform to fund revealing documentaries about young black men like Kalief Browder, imprisoned in Rikers Island for allegedly stealing a backpack, and Trayvon Martin, gunned down for carrying a bag of Skittles and an iced tea. Young men who embody the reason for the movement led by Colin Kaepernick. Young men, like your own son, Sir Carter, who, without the silver spoon protection you’ve earned for him, could be at risk, too.
Not only did the deal making stun me, but I am cut to the core by your response to a reporter saying, "I think we’ve moved past kneeling," adding, "I think everyone knows what the issue is. We’re done with that." Are you for real? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve had to explain the reason behind Kaepernick’s protest, maybe I’d be one of Forbes’ top richest.
I expect this kind of deal with the devil from the known sellouts — too many to list here— whose life’s work is to act as cover for people and organizations who can’t spell social justice. But you are one of the few celebrities who seemed to both walk and talk your activism. One of the few with enough money to be freely outspoken without fear of economic sanctions. There was no real need for you to sit down with the stubbornly unrepentant NFL. “Greed is good” extolled the fictional movie character Gordon Gekko. I’m sorry he’s been proven right, yet again.