Respect Me in Equity

Treating different things the same can generate as much inequality as treating the same things different. “-Kimberli Crenshaw

In 2017 in the files of former GM of the Denver Broncos was a memo written by Claude Young, a former NFL running back entitled “Some Observations on the NFL and Negro Players.” It laid out the growing number of Black players in the league, the lack of Black employees in these organizations (non-players), the need for more cultural and social support for these athletes, and the potential issues for players who spoke out on civil rights issues. The letter was sent out to teams by the commissioner. (1) It wasn’t enough to just get the chance White players had been given, but to be seen as Black players with needs distinct and different from the privileged.

Fast forward to 2019, the NFL after blacklisting Colin Kaepernick since 2016 for protesting during the anthem for the lives of Black men, women, and children being taken by police officers, goes into partnership with RocNation, owned by Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter to be live music strategist and to promote the culture of the corp of athletic talent in the league through change initiatives. The partnership was seen by many as an Uncle Tom and capitalistic move by Jay, especially since it didn’t demand the hiring or compensation of Kaepernick. Yet others saw the power of Jay taking his seat at this table, putting himself in a position to not only inspire change but represent the culture of the league’s players, primarily urban young Black men.

And on this Saturday, after three years since his last time on the field, Kaepernick will have a league set up workout. It’s not perfect and it’s methods were certainly hasty… but if he wants to play, which he clearly does, this is a mechanism for that.

“Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too”

So folks got opinions, good. This is not just an NFL issue, it’s a cultural, social, and civil rights issue. It’s the same issue from 1966. It’s not a new issue. Jay-Z didn’t create this, Trump didn’t create it, and neither did Kaepernick or his kneeling. Let’s talk facts.

In 2017, 70% of the leagues players were Black. In 1966, 25% if the leagues players were Black. If a player in 1966 could predict the exact issue that Kaepernick faced and requested better treatment of these men and integration of their culture and values into the fabric of the league … imagine how important that seat is today.

1960 saw the start of sit-ins for refusal of service of Black patrons. 1963 witnessed March on Washington followed by the bombing of 16th Street Baptist Church. The third in 11 days since the integration of Alabama schools. In 1964 the Civil Rights Act was passed and three civil rights activists were found dead after a massive FBI investigation. 1965 saw the March in Selma, the assassination of Malcolm X, and passing of the Voting Rights Act. In 1966 the Black Panther Party was formed by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale. What a tumultuous time to be Black and alive. The times were definitely a catalyst for that 1966 memo. We demand to be seen.

At a time when we were still treated as less than full humans, someone stood up, but we didn’t have any chairs or any idea where the table was. It’s easy to dismiss someone with no power.

Yet as racism and oppression continued despite our strides, as integration and industrialization changed the American landscape, the radical White supremacists went into hiding. Black people took over sports. We ran for political office. We ran for and eventually won the Presidency. And Colin Kaepernick in 2012-2013 lead the 49ers to two Super Bowl appearances as quarterback in the same league that had teams which never have a Black quarterback until 2007 (New York Giants). But equality doesn’t always lead to equity. In 2016, Kaepernick began kneeling during the anthem protesting the police killings of unarmed Black people. He was blacklisted, criticizes, and demonized. But despite the harm to his career, with his fro, tattoos, Castro socks, and unapologetic protest, he demanded to be heard and noticed.

The state of Black America at this point is very different. We are billionaires. We buy chairs, we’ll even bring an extra table. We yield power on our own terms that can’t simply be overlooked. Our needs a different because of our differences and these differences.

“Tell these clowns we ain’t amused.”


The truth is this, inclusion changes attitudes by force. Those that move into spaces that are more diverse tend to take on more understanding views of people that differ from them in demographics. That is the value of proximity and knowledge. Learning about another person’s motivations, history, culture, and traditions usually informs those with preconceived racial and cultural bias how more alike we are across racial, social, ethnic, class lines, than we are different. It’s not something you have to even promote in a diverse setting, it tends to happen naturally over time. A forced change in attitude.

In this highly capitalistic society, similarities in socio-economic status, tend to break down racial barriers the fastest. Since designations if race were primarily used to feed racists capitalist system structures in America, you starve those systems when you put two racially different billionaires in the room. They share more than they differ. So enter Jay-Z. A rapper, a former drug dealer, a 50 year old urban hip hop pioneer who is a certified billionaire. He partners with the NFL. The more he talks, the more he promotes, the more these White execs gain access into the minds of these players that were once only employees and bodies, but become people before their eyes. The fro and tattoo are no longer just signs of thug life but of Black cultural identity. Suddenly your protest isn’t just about bad White people but the lives of Black people. Of course it isn’t as easy to come by as it is to write it… but nonetheless there is power in diversity. Those seats are mighty.

Might this workout be a PR stunt, sure. But can we ignore that Jay’s presence CERTAINLY got 70% of the leagues players that seat that Claude Young was asking for over 30 years ago… we shouldn’t if we want to see these same changes in other areas of Black life. We need seats in government, education, technology, business… we need seat builders and seat fillers.


Put Some Respect and Equity… on my check, my chance, and my chair.

All most of us who have been disrespected and handed inequitable pieces of the pie want is a chance, an opportunity on our merit. An interview, a loan, a spot in a prestigious school, a promotion, a shot at our dream. Kaepernick has that on Saturday. It might not look exactly how we all want it to look… but as a Black person in capitalistic America, it rarely does. We just have to keep demanding to be seen, heard, and noticed.

Shoot your shot Kap!

(1) “Some Observations on the NFL and Negro Players”Paul Lukas The Undefeated. February 1.2018.

Pay Me in Equity

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.

1. Capitalism

Let’s start with all this talk about him being a capitalist…


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”