As part of its new long-term partnership with the NFL, Jay-Z’s entertainment company, Roc Nation, has launched an apparel line and a music project that will support programs under the league’s social justice initiative called Inspire Change. But given the NFL’s recent history on the issue, many people are skeptical of the move.
Many high-profile commentators criticized the initiative as hypocritical, accusing the league of blackballing Colin Kaepernick for leading peaceful protests against social justice issues by kneeling during the national anthem at NFL games in 2016.
That same year, Kaepernick’s organization Know Your Rights Camp began hosting camps for young people and teaching communities about their legal rights in police encounters. In January 2018, the activist announced he completed his pledge of donating $1 million to organizations helping underserved communities.
He has remained unsigned by an NFL team since he became a free agent after the 2016 season.
Roc Nation said proceeds from the Inspire Change apparel line will support organizations that are focused on the league’s efforts to address social justice issues, such as education and economic empowerment, police and community relations, and criminal justice reform, according to a press release.
Similarly, as part of the related music initiative called Songs of the Season, select artists will create music that will be used in NFL promotions. The songs will “debut during an in-game broadcast and will be simultaneously released to all digital streaming platforms worldwide.” All proceeds from the songs will go toward Inspire Change.
Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, who was the first NFL player to kneel in protest alongside Kaepernick, has been a vocal critic of Roc Nation’s partnership with the league.
He mocked the new initiative in a Twitter post on Friday.
″‘Let’s diffuse the uprising of Black voices demanding justice with concerts to “inspire change” that have nothing at all to do with real “action,”’” he wrote. ”‘It’s cool because our token black guy set up the concert.’”
Kaepernick shared on Twitter Friday a highlighted paragraph from Robert L. Allen’s 1969 book “Black Awakening in Capitalist America” that discusses the role of capitalism in the oppression of Black communities.
″Reading always gives me clarity,” Kaepernick wrote.
He then shared the following quote from the book: “What [they] seek is not an end to oppression, but the transfer of the oppressive apparatus into their own hands.”
Artists Meek Mill, Rhapsody and Meghan Trainor have been announced as the “first Inspire Change advocates of the 2019 NFL season,” Roc Nation stated. They will perform a free concert in Chicago’s Grant Park ahead of the NFL’s kickoff game featuring the Chicago Bears against the Green Bay Packers on Sept. 5.
Other Twitter users joined Reid in criticizing the recent announcement: