Etan Thomas On Jay-Z: This Ain’t Checkers Or Chess, It’s Connect 4. You’re Stacking Your Chips On Top Of The Movement

Written by Ann Brown
Jay-Z makes an announcement of the launch of Dream Chasers record label in joint venture with Roc Nation, at the Roc Nation headquarters on Tuesday, July 23, 2019, in New York. (Photo by Greg Allen/Invision/AP)

Retired NBA player turned activist and motivated speaker Etan Thomas has some questions for Jay-Z about his recent partnership with the NFL. And Thomas has penned in an open letter to the Hip-Hop mogul in  The Undefeated.

While Thomas points out all the things Jay-Z has done for the Black community — from raising money for the families of Sean Bell and Trayvon Martin to donating thousands to help bail out protesters in Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore — he wrote it’s time for Jay-Z to answer his critics in regard to his making a deal with the National Football League.

“This doesn’t look like chess versus checkers, this looks like Connect 4, you stacking your chips on top of the movement and connecting with the NFL for a straight line across capitalism,” Thomas charged, but added, “Your body of work speaks for itself. I don’t believe you should be canceled, but we shouldn’t allow our adoration for someone to stifle our critique.”

Jay-Z’s own words about the need to protest against the establishment have come back to haunt him, and Thomas made sure to remind the rapper of what he said in 2017 to an audience at a Miami concert: “I want y’all to understand when people are kneeling and putting their fists up in the air and doing what they’re doing, it’s not about the flag, it’s about justice. It’s about injustice. And that’s not a Black or white thing, it’s a human issue.”

Listen to GHOGH with Jamarlin Martin | Episode 67: Jamarlin Martin Jamarlin goes solo to discuss the NFL’s entertainment and “social justice” deal with Jay-Z. We look back at the Barclays gentrification issue in the documentary “A Genius Leaves The Hood: The Unauthorized Story of Jay-Z.”

And Jay-Z even rapped out against the football establishment when on “APES—” he spat: “I said no to the Super Bowl: you need me, I don’t need you.”

Fast forward to Jay-Z sitting down and dealing with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, of which Thomas wrote:

“Surprisingly, during a news conference while sitting next to Roger Goodell, you told a room of reporters ‘that we are past kneeling [and] it’s not about getting [Colin] Kaepernick a job.’ Then you asked people in the room, ‘Do you know the issue? How about you, do you know the issue?’ As you asked the question, I noticed Goodell’s smile as he leaned back in his chair. I thought to myself, was this a prerequisite for Jay-Z to sit at the table with the NFL?”

During the meeting with Godwell, there was also the announcement of Roc Nation signing on to promote the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, which will focus on education, economic development, police, community relations, and criminal justice reform. Roc Nation will debut a music series and clothing line in collab with the NFL. 

“It appears as though you changed your entire message once the NFL deal happened. This looks bad, Jay-Z,” Thomas wrote.

He added: “Here is the part that’s hard to swallow. It seems as though you are profiting from the very movement that Kaepernick started by partnering with the NFL, which to this day has whiteballed Kaepernick from the league. Let’s be honest, if Kaepernick never took a knee and verbalized that he was protesting systemic racism and police brutality, this deal would never have been extended to you.”

So is Jay-Z masterminding a chess game where he checkmates the NFL? Or is he playing a pedestrian game of checkers? Thomas said, it’s neither.

He concluded in his letter: “Bottom line, this doesn’t look like chess versus checkers, this looks like Connect 4, you stacking your chips on top of the movement and connecting with the NFL for a straight line across capitalism. You won the game, but it definitely doesn’t equal social justice, not yet at least.”