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Jay-Z addresses Colin Kaepernick in wake of Roc Nation, NFL deal

(L-R) Jay-Z and Colin Kaepernick.
(L-R) Jay-Z and Colin Kaepernick. Getty Images

A day after Jay-Z announced that his Roc Nation company was partnering with the NFL, the rap mogul explained that he still supports protesting, kneeling and NFL player Colin Kaepernick.

Jay-Z fielded questions at Roc Nations’ headquarters alongside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell about the partnership and Kaepernick, who the rapper supported in the past.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Jay-Z appear at a news conference at ROC Nation on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in New York. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL)
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, left, and Jay-Z appear at a news conference at ROC Nation on Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2019, in New York. (Ben Hider/AP Images for NFL)

When asked if he would kneel or stand for the national anthem, Jay-Z said that he thinks we’ve moved past kneeling.

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“I think we’ve moved past kneeling. I think it’s time for action,” the Empire State of Mind rapper said.

He then added: “No, I don’t want people to stop protesting at all. Kneeling — I know we’re stuck on it because it’s a real thing — but kneeling is a form of protest. I support protest across the board. We need to bring light to the issue. I think everyone knows what the issue is — we’re done with that.”

Jay-Z defended his decision as “the next phase” in the process begun by Kaepernick, who sparked demonstrations during the U.S. national anthem to protest social and racial injustice.

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“We all know the issue now. OK, next. What are we moving [on to] next? …And I’m not minimizing that part of it because that has to happen, that’s a necessary part of the process. But now that we all know what’s going on. What are we going to do? How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.”
“There [are] two parts of protesting,” Jay-Z said. “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.”

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When asked why he didn’t involve Kaepernick in the new Roc Nation-NFL deal, Jay-Z said: “You’d have to ask him. I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.”

Jay-Z said that he and Kaepernick had a conversation about the new deal but didn’t offer any further details about what was discussed.

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“I’m not knocking anything he’s doing, and I hope he doesn’t knock what I’m doing,” Jay-Z said.

The Otis rapper has been among Kaepernick’s strongest supporters, who sparked a fissure in the NFL when he decided to kneel when the national anthem was played before games to protest the killings of blacks by police officers. Some called him unpatriotic, and he has not played for the NFL since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017.

Earlier this year, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by Kaepernick and Eric Reid that alleged that owners colluded to keep them from playing in the league.

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Reid criticized Jay-Z’s new deal with the league, saying, “These aren’t mutually exclusive. They can both happen at the same time! It looks like your goal was to make millions and millions of dollars by assisting the NFL in burying Colin’s career.”

Interesting timing on the partnership with Jay-Z on the heels of Stephen Ross’ fundraiser for Donald Trump and the backlash his other companies are getting because of it. #PayAttentionFolks,” Reid tweeted.

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He continued: “about people of color by forming numerous disingenuous partnerships to address social injustice while collectively blackballing Colin, the person who brought oppression and social injustice to the forefront of the NFL platform.”

Reid tweeted Thursday that Jay-Z “doesn’t need the NFL’s help” to address social injustice issues.

“Jay-Z doesn’t need the NFL’s help 2 address social injustices. It was a money move 4 him & his music business. The NFL gets 2 hide behind his black face 2 try to cover up blackballing Colin,” he wrote.

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Kaepernick has yet to publicly comment on the Roc Nation-NFL partnership, but hours after Jay-Z spoke with reporters, he took to social media to commemorate “the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression.”

“Today marks the three year anniversary of the first time I protested systemic oppression,” Kaepernick wrote in his post. “I continue to work and stand with the people in our fight for liberation, despite those who are trying to erase the movement! The movement has always lived with the people!”

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On Thursday, Kaepernick sent out another tweet: “You never turned your back on me or the people, even when the nfl tried to silence your voice & the movement. You’ve never flinched or wavered. I love you Brother! Let’s get it! @E_Reid3 And to the people – I see you, I hear you and I love you! Thank you for having my back!!”

Kaepernick’s girlfriend Nessa Diab tweeted an article from The Atlantic about the new partnership on Thursday.

“I never thought I would see this headline in my lifetime. I can’t put in words the disappointment and disgust #ImWithKap FOREVER,” she wrote.

She also alleged that Kaepernick and Jay-Z “never spoke” about the deal.

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The NFL and Jay-Z’s entertainment and sports representation company announced Tuesday they were teaming up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works over the last seven months.

“First thing I said to Roger was, ’If this is about me performing at the Super Bowl, then we can just end this conversation now,’” Jay-Z said.

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The league plans to use Roc Nation — home to Rihanna, DJ Khaled and other stars — to consult on and co-produce its entertainment presentations, including the Super Bowl halftime show. The NFL will also work with Jay-Z’s company to help its Inspire Change initiative, created by the league after an agreement with a coalition of players who demonstrated during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice in this country. Those demonstrations were sparked by Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

“Everyone’s saying, ‘How are you going forward if Kaep doesn’t have a job?’ This was not about him having a job. That became part of it,” Jay-Z said. “We know what it is — now how do we address that injustice? What’s the way forward?”

Jay-Z added that “the NFL has a huge platform and we can use that huge platform.”

“I believe real change is had through conversation, real conversation and real work … and what better way to do it than where the conversation first took place.”

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Jay-Z has turned down invitations to perform at the Super Bowl, even rapping about it in a song. Rihanna has also turned down the gig.

Jay-Z said he is not performing at the 2020 halftime show, which his company will co-produce, and said he turned down the offer in the past because he “didn’t like the process.”

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“You take four artists and everyone thinks they’re playing the Super Bowl, and it’s almost like this interview process,” he said.

“I think the process could have been more definite.”

— With files from the Associated Press

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