Artist News Business News Deals Top Stories

Jay-Z says Roc Nation’s NFL tie-up can “get things done”

By | Published on Thursday 15 August 2019


Jay-Z has spoken about his decision to start working with American football’s NFL, an organisation he has previously heavily criticised over its handling of the controversial national anthem protests. The rapper says that the football league has assured him it is willing to make some changes and utlise its “great big platform” in order to “do some good”.

The NFL’s deal is with the rapper’s Roc Nation business, which has been appointed as the football league’s ‘live music entertainment strategist’. According to the New York Times, the tie-up will see Roc Nation consult on all and any NFL entertainment events, including the usually headline-grabbing Super Bowl half time show, as well as inputting into the league’s activism campaign, which goes by the name Inspire Change.

Jay-Z declined to perform at this year’s Super Bowl in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, the shunned American football player who kick-started the recent series of national anthem protests. Those, of course, are where players sit or kneel during the pre-game airing of the ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’, in protest at continued police brutality and racism in the US. The Donald Trump-led backlash to the protests meant they stayed in the headlines, resulting in angry debate on both sides far beyond the sports arena.

Although the NFL is partly positioning the Roc Nation alliance as a way to access high-level musicians for its events, it is also clearly an attempt to allay criticism over its handling of the player protests. Opinion is now divided over whether the NFL will seek to learn from its new ally, or if it will try to exploit its former critic by basically saying “look, we work with one of the most famous black American celebrities, we can’t possibly be siding with racists”.

Jay-Z himself is obviously hoping it’s the former. Talking about the new partnership, he is quoted by the New York Times as saying: “The NFL has a great big platform, and it has to be all-inclusive. They were willing to do some things, to make some changes, [so] that we can do some good”.

Speaking for the NFL, Roger Goodell told the Times: “We don’t want people to come in and necessarily agree with us; we want people to come in and tell us what we can do better. I think that’s a core element of our relationship [with Roc Nation], and with Jay and I personally”.

Meanwhile, acknowledging those who are more cynical about the new tie-up, the rapper insisted that his opinions about the national anthem protests, and how the NFL and individual teams have responded in the past, haven’t changed. As for the NFL’s real motive, he added in his interview: “I have to believe that even if it’s not sincere, we’re going to get things done”.