Jay-Z and the NFL: Time Will Tell

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Jay-Z and the NFL: Time Will Tell

By now we have had a chance to digest the news that Jay-Z has signed a partnership agreement with the NFL. This agreement paves the way for him to be involved in decision-making that affects the league. It also paves the way for him to become an owner in some capacity in the future. I have read a lot about the deal and watched as two camps of people emerged: those who support his actions and those who criticize his actions. Naturally, as an African American writer, I am looking at this issue primarily with an African American viewpoint.

Those who agree with Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL believe it is good to have a black person with a seat at the NFL ownership table. They think his presence will influence change. Advocates hope he can get Colin Kaepernick on an NFL roster. Finally, they believe Jay-Z will force NFL owners to think differently about the players they employ. I agree with these opinions (but it is up to Jay-Z to make this work).

Critics of Jay-Z are saying he is a sellout to Colin Kaepernick, black NFL players, and black people in general. People think he is being selfish, and out the chase more money and fame. Some say he’s misguided because he is cooperating with the oppressors. Others say he will become just like the other owners in the NFL: taskmasters who are exploiting black players. While I understand and respect each one of these viewpoints, I disagree with all of them. I have reasons that few people have stated on either side of the argument.

People who achieve the level of success Jay-Z has achieved think differently. It is one of the reasons why they are so successful. There is a high probability that most people have never met anyone who thinks quite like Jay-Z, Bill Gates, Oprah Winfrey, and so many other high achievers. They are rare. The way they think is rare. We should remember this fact as we throw criticism their way.

Believe me, this is not meant to put down anyone and I’m sorry if it sounds like one. Before we criticize Jay-Z, there are a few questions we might want to ask ourselves.  Do we think at a level high enough to truly grasp what he is trying to accomplish? Seriously, do we know how hard it is to become a millionaire? Now multiply that by 1,000 and that’s the “level” of thinking we’re talking about. As it relates to the NFL, most of us are thinking about “minor” details while we can assume Jay-Z is thinking about a much bigger picture.

We think Jay-Z should be thinking about kneeling players on a sideline; he should be thinking about opening the lines of communication with those players. We are thinking about Colin Kaepernick being blackballed; he is thinking about how to effect change, so it never happens again. We think about another black player being used by a white owner; he is thinking about how to sit at the table with white owners to change the power structure that’s been in place since the inception of the NFL.

We should give Jay-Z the same benefit of doubt when joining the NFL fraternity that we gave him when we bought his albums. No one questioned his ability or motivation when he grabbed the mic. We were all in on Jay-Z when described his upbringing in his songs. We were rocking Roc-a-Wear everything because it was his clothing brand. Now when he rises to a level well beyond record sales is when we doubt him?

Personally, I do not put my trust in any human being in any given situation. This includes Jay-Z and his attempt to break into the NFL. Add to the mix the amount of money involved, and it wouldn’t surprise me if Jay-Z is in in for all the selfish reasons his critics have said. It wouldn’t surprise me if he becomes just like the other owners in the NFL. It wouldn’t surprise me if never does anything to help black players.  It wouldn’t surprise me if he does “sellout”.

But I think he deserves the chance to “prove” to us what he’s joining the NFL ownership club to accomplish. Jay-Z turned his street corner hustle into a lucrative rap career. Jay-Z turned his street corner hustle into a billion-dollar brand. Jay-Z turned his street corner hustle into a deal with the NFL. So, it is his right to decide whether to use that same street corner hustle for selfish reasons or to influence change in the NFL. He has worked tirelessly to get in position to have a seat at the NFL table.

I hope Jay-Z uses his seat at the table wisely and holds the boardroom door open for others. Time will tell.


Gary A. McAbee created the Wake Up/Rise Up Black America blog to have a powerful voice and positive impact in African-American neighborhoods, communities, and society. The articles posted are not only for African-Americans, but for all people due to their relevance and cultural significance. Along with his other blog, Motivation for the World, Gary can get people talking about issues that affect us all. He is the proud author of three self-help books: Wake Up! 42 Ways to Improve Black America Now!, the follow-up Rise Up! 42 Additional Ways to Improve Black America Now! , and Defining Success: One Word at a Time.


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