Jemele Hill: Jay-Z Helped the NFL Banish Colin Kaepernick

Jemele Hill
Getty Images/Emma McIntyre

Former ESPN host Jemele Hill has accused rapper and social justice warrior Jay-Z of throwing Colin Kaepernick under the bus, during negotiations to take control of the NFL’s entertainment and social justice platforms.

On Wednesday, the rapper and the NFL held a joint press conference to announce that the league had entered into a partnership with Jay-Z’s Roc Nation entertainment company to take over the league’s decisions on music and entertainment, including entertainment programming for the Super Bowl.

However, the rapper, whose real name is Shawn Carter, was immediately faced with questions over whether he still supports the NFL’s original national anthem protester, Colin Kaepernick.
In 2018, Jay-Z publicly refused to accept the NFL’s offer of performing at the Super Bowl as long as Kaepernick was unemployed.
But during the NFL press conference, Jay-Z seemed to throw Kaepernick under the bus saying that the anthem protests were never about anyone’s job.

The rapper insisted that we have all gotten “beyond” the anthem protests, and that the issues the protests were highlighting are now all very well known. “But now that we all know what’s going on, what are we going to do,” Carter said during the presser. “How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice.”

Jay-Z’s comments did not sit well with Jemele Hill.

In a Thursday editorial, the Atlantic writer said, “I get that Jay-Z might see this as an opportunity for artists to connect with the NFL’s immense audience,” but added that the rapper had taken a hit in his credibility in the effort.

“But in this case, Jay-Z isn’t getting enough out of the deal to justify the sacrifice of some of his credibility,” Hill carped. “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—even though it’s likely that Jay-Z and the NFL wouldn’t even be entering into this arrangement if Kaepernick hadn’t taken a knee in 2016.”

Hill reported that Jay-Z had not consulted Kaepernick before making his NFL deal but did call the former player on Monday after the agreement was made public. The call “was not a good conversation,” Hill wrote.

“It’s easy to see why Kaepernick would be upset now,” Hill admitted. “The partnership with Jay-Z is part of the NFL’s larger strategy to continue to absolve itself of what happened to the quarterback and throw enough money at social-justice causes so that the players will no longer feel the need to protest—or, at the very least, keep their opinions about racial injustice far away from the football field.”

Hill went on to accuse Jay-Z of helping the NFL to revel in its hypocrisy.

“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,” she wrote.

Hill next insisted that Jay-Z’s hiring does not absolve the NFL of anything:

It doesn’t matter whom the NFL partners with, or how much money it pours into social-justice causes. The league’s actions come off as disingenuous because Kaepernick remains unemployed as a result of a peaceful protest. How can the NFL be taken seriously as a social-justice champion when it blackballed a player who stood up for equality?

Hill allowed that Jay-Z is still an important and sincere figure in social justice but said that he is only “being used” by the NFL.

But it does seem like he’s being used as cover. Or, at best, a buffer. The league can point to its partnership with Jay-Z whenever anyone brings up the fact that several of its owners are Trump supporters. As Kaepernick’s best friend, the Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, pointed out on Twitter, the announcement of this partnership helped move the news cycle past last week’s controversy involving the Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross.

Hill concluded that Jay-Z had made a mistake with his partnership.

Jay-Z gave the NFL what it wanted—a blank slate. Jay-Z is an iconic figure, and it would be a shame if this partnership changed how people think of him. But I have also learned this about the NFL: Football is the NFL’s primary business, but chess is the game it plays best.

It appears that all is not well in the world of social justice.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.

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