Jay-Z Vs. Colin Kaepernick Is a Classic Case of Divide and Conquer Strategy Executed Perfectly by the NFL
Yesterday the hip-hop mogul Jay-Z and National Football League Commissioner Roger Goodell held a joint media session at the Roc Nation offices in New York to seal a once-implausible partnership that isn’t being received as positively as both parties probably hoped.
I assume neither Goodell nor Jay-Z expected to be on the defensive once the NFL announced that it would give Roc Nation, the music mogul’s entertainment company, significant power in choosing the performers for the league’s signature events—including the coveted Super Bowl halftime show. Jay-Z and Roc Nation will also help augment the NFL’s social-justice initiatives by developing content and spaces where players can speak about the issues that concern them.
This wasn’t just another routine example of Jay-Z living out a lyric he’d rapped nearly 15 years ago—“I’m not a businessman. I’m a business, man!” Instead, the rapper faced questions yesterday about why he chose to collaborate with the same league that he’d publicly criticized for its treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who hasn’t had an NFL job since taking a knee during the national anthem three years ago to protest police brutality and racial injustice. This is the same Jay-Z who showed support for Kaepernick by wearing his jersey on Saturday Night Live. On his megahit song “Apeshit,” Jay-Z rapped this lyric: “Once I said no to the Super Bowl: You need me, I don’t need you. Every night we in the end zone. Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.”
Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Diab, wrote on Twitter that Kaepernick didn’t speak with Jay-Z before he brokered his deal with the NFL. Jay-Z said yesterday that he spoke to Kaepernick on Monday, but he wouldn’t divulge how their conversation went.
Speaking on her show on the Hot 97 radio station, Nessa, Kaepernick’s girlfriend, said: “I don’t mind you doing a business deal – but I do mind you wrapping it in social justice when you’re working with an organization that denies someone an opportunity.” In an Instagram post, she said: “It’s typical for the NFL to buy different PR looks to cover up their dirt – that’s nothing new. But what is disgusting and disappointing is Jay-Z let them use him.”
Some of the biggest celebrities in the world have voiced their support of Kaepernick, saying they would boycott the NFL until Kaepernick is back in the league. Some stars, including Rihanna and Cardi B, reportedly turned down the opportunity to appear at the event show out of allegiance to Kaepernick. Other celebrities, such as the comedian Amy Schumer, publicly pressured the Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine to pull out of his performance. The Reverend Al Sharpton, the civil-rights leader, blasted the rapper Travis Scott, who performed with Levine. “You can’t fight against Jim Crow and then go sit in the back of the bus,”
Now that the NFL has Jay-Z’s blessing, it’s conceivable that some of those entertainers who distanced themselves from the NFL might change their mind. Jay-Z has given the NFL exactly what it wanted: guilt-free access to black audiences, culture, entertainers, and influencers. This alliance plays right into the NFL’s hands, because the league seems determined to banish any memory of Kaepernick with its recent social-justice efforts. By leaving Kaepernick completely out of the mix, Jay-Z is now complicit in helping the NFL execute its strategy. Now he is an accomplice in the league’s hypocrisy.