What more can I say…
I admire Shawn Cater, aka Jay-Z, aka Hov. I admire, truth be told, any young Black person with a dream, who makes their dreams happen and then uses the brand they built as a result of that dream, to help the community they hail from, the people that look like him or her. I ALSO admire brilliance.
Now on to the topic.
Let’s start with all this talk about him being a capitalist…
WE LIVE IN AMERICA yo!
Everyone who is successful in America is a capitalist, they live by capitalistic standards, and operate under a capitalist framework. Capitalism is simply the system of free enterprise, where individuals control trade and industry. We don’t share our income. No one has ever came and just given me some share of their profits unless they lived with me. You aren’t socialist or communist are you… well… what’s the fuss.
We live in a capitalist society. You have to think like a capitalist if you want to effect change in a nation built upon the backs of other humans for the sake of capitalism. It’s a mindset many Black Americans simply don’t understand and frankly are uncomfortable with, and that is where we are complicit in our own oppression. Yes, I said it. Racism is a systematic system of oppression that the privileged use to disenfranchise people because of their race in order to strengthen their own privilege financially, socially, and politically. They are able to effectuate this system with wealth.
2. Negotiation And Social Justice
A revolution, or change of power structures, can be done one or two ways, fighting or negotiating. We can either break the doors down or get invited in. A very large majority of the people on the low end of the power continuum believe that working within that system makes you a sellout. However anyone who resides anywhere on the outskirts of that world knows that one foot inside of it brings resources, tools, opportunity that can change lives. Within that world lives justice, financial freedom, opportunity, health, wealth, and most importantly freedom. Freedom ain’t free. Unless we are prepared to fight, and 90% of the powerful are ready to go to war for that power-hence the influence of the NRA, we must play within the confines of the system we inherited until we have the wealth and power to change it!
Imma need y’all to know your history.
Black oppression has never ended by violence. It’s never stopped because we protested. It’s never ended because we spoke out. It’s those moves combined with the greatest human tool of settling conflict, that has only ever changed anything… negotiation.
Nelson Mandela was imprisoned by the system that created apartheid. When he was released from prison he negotiated with that very system to end it. The white system of oppression was hurting because internationally they were sanctioned and condemned for their treatment of the black majority. They yielded political power to the Black liberation movements in exchange for economic privilege. Negotiation.
Dapper Dan x Gucci. One is an Italian fashion house, as are Dolce & Gabanna, Prada, etc. These brands have used racist American imagery in their designs, but as international brands they have to be committed to understanding the cultures that buy their clothes. The other is an urban fashion ICON. So after helping put Dapper Dan out of business in the 80s, Gucci used one of his exact designs on their runway. Instead of going to battle with the fashion house, he agreed to work with them after tons of backlash came from the Black and hip hop community. Now something Gucci and other major brands have been pilfering for years, has become something they have to share with its Black originator. That has led to other Black urban designers like Virgil Abloh, learning first hand how to build longevity in luxury fashion… something rare in the Black fashion experience. Negotiation.
Ultimately we want to all be respected. We fight for justice, whether it’s criminal justice or social justice, we want to be regarded as a person and as a people as positively as anyone else for our traditions, values, thoughts, actions, and intentions. We want to receive the same level of high esteem as others are awarded simply because they look a certain way, have a certain ancestry, gender, age, sexual preference. Unfortunately we live in a nation that doesn’t offer respect to those of us who don’t fit the model of privilege.
So, we have to do it a different way.
Money, Power, and Respect
To get to our destination, as Scarface said it best, “First you get the money, then you get the power…”
Wealth, whether we choose to believe it or not, gets you access… and access gets you in front of the people you want to influence to show them exactly how much power your name, reputation, brand yields. There aren’t a limited number of seats… these people control who they let sit in the round. When you have power, especially that can influence their bottom line, seats get pulled up to the table. The opportunities flow at that point. There are unlimited chairs, but limited opportunities.
4. The NFL and Race
The NFL has the most racially mismatched employee to exec ratio in any industry, 70% or so of the players are Black. Less than 15 Black execs and no Black owners.
Don’t attempt to make Jay the scapegoat for the NFL and it’s owners’ bullshit. They run an organization that was built upon racist ideology. Offer the opportunity for young Black men to make millions of dollars, so the owners can make billions, in exchange for their bodies, ignore the wear and tear on their Black bodies (remember 70% of the league is Black), dismiss studies done on how football damages the brain, limit hire and play of Black quarterbacks, fail to hire Black executives, attempt to control Black players by threatening their jobs due to peaceful protests. That’s not new, it’s institutionalized.
As a community we have prepared our sons for careers with this organization that cares nothing about them. We have bought the jerseys, season tickets, NFL pass to watch our community’s children make, if we go based on salary being a function of profit and our position in securing that profit, pennies on the dollar. We have watched them be fined for celebrating, relegated to the positions that leave them the most harmed physically and mentally. We must look at ourselves too. Surely we knew this organization had its share of racial issues prior to Kaepernick’s protests, but for the love of football …
3. Kaepernick & Jay
So Jay-Z did a thing. He made a deal with the NFL. It’s been said he is a sellout, that he basically shit on Colin Kaepernick, that his deal is strictly financial and has no social justice aspect… therefore Jay used Kap in order to create a means by which the NFL would see him as a necessary ally.
But let’s not be so simplistic in our thinking.
In a nutshell, Colin Kaepernick knelt during the anthem to bring awareness to police brutality, specifically murders of young Black men with no repercussions. The NFL and team owners didn’t like the protests, but Kaepernick left the 49ers for better. He didn’t get better. The fallout from the protests resulted in him not being hired. Through arbitration (read:negotiation) he got a settlement for collusion on behalf of the NFL and its owners. We don’t know the terms of that settlement, but I’m willing to bet a job with the NFL wasn’t an option. Colin sacrificed his job for something he believed in.
“There are a lot of people that don’t want to have this conversation. They are scared they might lose their jobs or they might not get endorsements and they might not be treated the same way. Those are things I’m prepared to handle.” – Colin Kaepernick
America is racist. America in 2016 elected its most racially divisive President in modern history, of whom many NFL executives supported financially and politically. America is controlled by big business. It can’t be any surprise to you that a Black man that they employ, who stands up against their ideology, will not work for them again. When you juxtapose this to the 2014 Hands Up protests by the St. Louis Rams after Michael Browns murder and Marshawn Lynch sitting on the bench during the anthem his entire NFL career, its clear the timing of Kaepernick’s protest as well as its visibility created the adversity with the league.
Jay-Z didn’t have anything to do with that. So stop.
But this is what’s real:
A. Jay is a billionaire, he doesn’t need to make deals that will harm his brand or tarnish his image. He can make deals because he simply believes in them…whether the rest of us do or not.
B. Jay is CLEARLY a proponent of social justice… Roc Nation has backed three documentaries on Khalief Browder, Trayvon Martin, and Robert “Meek Mill” Williams that you have on prison, bond, probation reform and gun reform. He is not Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson loud and rhyming his message to the masses, but he is often in the round. He is a founding member of the Meek Mill inspired Reform Alliance. He has paid the bonds for hundreds of people jailed during the Baltimore protests. One act does not negate that work.
C. About 10-12 million ppl watch the biggest Monday Night Football Games, 98 million watched the 2019 Super Bowl, with over 114 million watching the 2015 Super Bowl. Clearly the Super Bowl is it’s largest attraction each year. There are 327 million people in America, the Super Bowl has viewership that’s 1/3rd of the US population.
You want to influence what brands/companies gain popularity and which one’s that thumb their nose at Black culture do not…you get a piece of those companies you want to promote. The owner of Cristal, a brand shouted out by many rappers, spoke negatively about that affiliation. Jay bought and heavily promoted Armand de Brignac (Ace of Spades) which quickly saw the sales of Cristal decrease. You want to help artists recoup their earnings, lost in the traditional streaming platforms, you buy into and invite them to buy into such a musical platform. Tidal.
Like many of the hustlers on the block, dude is a genius. He understands the financial society we live in… he wrote a whole album about black capitalism. With a signature, dude has just brought the NFL to the table with the culture that many of it’s Black players who were kneeling and who faced repercussions for those actions come from, are bred from, and grew up in.
However, he was NOT obligated financially, morally, socially, or as a man, to get permission from anyone to further his coin and further social justice. He supported Kaepernick and this deal is a manifestation of Kap’s protest.
The Bottom Line
Based on the little that had been divulged about the actual contract, Jay-Z is basically going to control what a very large majority of the viewership tunes in for, at the biggest games the NFL has… the entertainment. I think it’s clear what this is about. He’s not the NFLs pawn… it’s actually quite the opposite. He is a powerful man the NFL realizes that it needs to gain back a part of its base.
“I said no to the Superbowl, you need me, I don’t need you/Every night we in the endzone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too”- Jay-Z from The Carters “Apeshit”
Jay is a icon of hip hop culture, a culture that resides deep within the NFL players cultures, and the customers and fans of the sport. It’s the quintessential money, power, respect move. And recall Roc Nation also is an athletic management company. C’mon people. This is chess not checkers.
I just think we’re often so worried about Black people looking like sellouts, we miss the bigger picture. As a culture, Black people have been enslaved, disenfranchised, lynched, discriminated against, miseducated, imprisoned, and grossly mistreated by American capitalism and the greed it can create. So functioning inside of that system is a source of fear and distrust for many in the Black community. But there is another consideration.
Nothing… NOTHING… will ever change for a group of people without access, power, and money. Making money is not an almighty sin. Just because it makes money, that doesn’t make it anti-Kap. Just because Kap hasn’t been hired, that doesn’t make this deal anti-Kap. This was never about a job, consider that protesting was about police brutality and not about the anthem or even the NFL. This deal brings what Kap did from the turf to the table. It’s not just about the money, it’s about the motivation.
We’ll never know the full scope of the settlement Kap took. Meanwhile Eric Reid is talking loud yet he gets paid by the NFL, and I bet you won’t see him kneel not another time. We don’t know how much money Jay-Z stands to make, and frankly I don’t think that matters. He used his wealth and power to get access to a league with less than 15 Black executives and no Black owners, and its being said he’ll soon be part owner of a team. Call him what you want. But you gotta shake shit up and agitate the folks at the table to get them to realize that you should always bet on Black! Now…
“Put some respect on my check”