Jay-Z Is Partnering With NFL To Manage Strategy For Entertainment, Social Justice

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Written by Dana Sanchez
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Jay-Z and his company Roc Nation partnered with the NFL to do live music entertainment strategy and help with community activism. In this Nov. 4, 2016 photo, Jay-Z performs during a campaign rally for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton in Cleveland. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke, File)

Jay-Z’s Roc Nation agency will become the NFL’s live music entertainment strategist, co-producing the Super Bowl halftime show and choosing who gets to perform in a partnership that brings together two of the country’s biggest brands.

The announcement follows more than two years of conflict after football players — inspired by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick — began kneeling during the national anthem to protest against police brutality.

About 75 percent of the NFL is African American. Kaepernick’s symbolic gesture against racial injustice stimulated a national debate about race and free speech. In 2017, Donald Trump encouraged NFL owners to fire the protesters.

The NFL partnership puts Jay-Z in charge of managing some entertainment for the football league but does not require him to be the halftime performer, he and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said. The 12-minute Super Bowl halftime show is seen by more than 100 million people each year. It’s the most-watched music performance in the U.S.

The goal is for the entertainment to tie into the NFL’s social justice attempts, with community activism tied into the NFL’s “Inspire Change” program.

The deal gives the NFL a foothold in the music business and the seal of approval for its social justice efforts from one of the country’s top African-American celebrities, New York Times reported.

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It also gives the NFL a chance to bond with its most influential critics. Jay-Z has likened Kaepernick to Muhammad Ali and wore a custom version of Kaepernick’s jersey when he performed on “Saturday Night Live” in 2017.

“The N.F.L. has a great big platform, and it has to be all-inclusive,” Jay-Z said in an interview this week. “They were willing to do some things, to make some changes, that we can do some good.”

Jay-Z turned down a chance to perform at the Super Bowl in 2018, The Source reported, and told the league in a recent song, “You need me, I don’t need you.” Other Black stars including Rihanna have rebuffed the NFL over its handling of protesters.