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Questions Emerge Over Jay-Z’s Intentions Following Roc Nation’s NFL Deal

Jay Z and Roger GooddellJay Z and Roger Gooddell
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City.Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation

Over the last 24 hours, news emerged that Jay-Z's Roc Nation had struck a deal with the NFL to curate the league's entertainment offerings and push forward social justice initiatives. But it also led many to ask: What does Colin Kaepernick think about this? After all, the rapper-mogul wore the exiled quarterback's jersey during a 2017 Saturday Night Live performance, months before he rapped, "I said no to the Super Bowl: you need me, I don't need you."

Now Jay-Z and the world's most powerful sports league are in alliance, and though the former may be right about the NFL needing him in the face of criticism over national anthem protests and declining viewership, what exactly does Roc Nation get out of it—besides money—particularly when the partnership appears to oppose its owner's vocal support of Kaepernick?

“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” Jay-Z said, alongside NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, at a press conference Wednesday. “So in that case this is a success; this is the next thing."

The next thing is this: In addition to advising the league on a selection of musical artists for NFL events, including the Super Bowl halftime show, Roc Nation will "amplify" the league's Inspire Change program aimed at supporting communities with educational and economic advancement and criminal justice reform, the NFL said in a statement.

It remains to be seen what Kaepernick thinks about the deal (Fortune did not receive an immediate response to a request for comment), but Jay-Z told reporters he spoke to the former quarterback about the deal prior to announcing it—going even as far to clarify that he would not ask Kaepernick to join any initiatives carried out by Roc Nation and the NFL. But on Twitter, Nessa Diab, Kaepernick's girlfriend, said neither Jay-Z nor the NFL spoke to Kaepernick about the deal ahead of its completion.

A debate has emerged about whether the deal is appropriate considering Jay-Z's previous support of Kaepernick. The Atlantic's Jemele Hill suggested that it depended on whether Kaepernick was apart of the partnership. Shaun King said Jay-Z's decision should come as no surprise given his record as "a proud capitalist," the "primary theme of his career." Others, like ESPN analyst Jalen Rose said the deal was "an opportunity to bridge a gap" and that it would "bring all sides into the room and create a level of credibility that benefits all involved."

Kaepernick still remains, essentially, blackballed from the league, having not been signed by any team in two years. Regardless of what conversations actually did (or did not) happen between him and Jay-Z, the rapper said that he was "not knocking anything he’s doing, and I hope he doesn’t knock what I’m doing."

He added: "I think we’re past kneeling. I think it's time for action."

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