NEW YORK – In a major boost to the NFL’s efforts around social justice, Roc Nation, the entertainment company founded by iconic rapper, businessman and activist Shawn “Jay-Z” Carter, has agreed to lead the league’s endeavors in music and entertainment.
As part of the surprising long-term partnership, Roc Nation will advise on the selection of artists for NFL tentpole events, including the Super Bowl, as well as play a key role in the production and promotion of new music. The NFL’s union with Roc Nation kicks off as the league celebrates its 100th season, and serves as a commitment from both parties to amplify the league’s Inspire Change initiative.
Among the most important benefits to the NFL is that Roc Nation, through its position as a global entertainment leader, could enhance the Inspire Change platform in ways that the league likely would not be able to on its own. The program, which is run by the league and its players, focuses on education and economic advancement, improving police-community relations and criminal justice reform.
Carter believes Roc Nation and the NFL will accomplish big things together.
“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country,” the entertainment mogul said. “Roc Nation has shown that entertainment and enacting change are not mutually exclusive ideas – instead, we unify them. This partnership is an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”
Likewise, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is excited about the possibilities.
“Roc Nation is one of the most globally influential and impactful organizations in entertainment,” Goodell said. “The NFL and Roc Nation share a vision of inspiring meaningful social change across our country. We are thrilled to partner with Roc Nation and look forward to making a difference in our communities together.”
The deal calls for Roc Nation, which will also reach out to artists who are not attached to the company, to quarterback the creation and distribution of music content across multiple music and streaming services, as well as consult and collaborate on the production, promotion and marketing of live music events. A Pro Bowl community concert, original music, artists podcasts and a live visual album may be produced under the new banner. For the NFL, the potentially positive impact of Carter being willing to join forces with it — especially at this time — cannot be overstated.
The fact is, despite its significant recent efforts to back players in championing social justice, the NFL still lacks credibility with many African-Americans, even some who identify themselves as being among the league’s fans, because of the Colin Kaepernick situation.
During the 2016 season, the-then San Francisco 49ers quarterback knelt during the national anthem to draw attention to police brutality and systemic oppression. Since the end of that season, Kaepernick has gone unsigned. Many activists, fans and players believe that NFL owners are conspiring to blackball Kaepernick, who in February settled his collusion grievance against the league for an undisclosed financial settlement.
Carter, who has been public in his support for Kaepernick, is among the most revered figures in the black community, more for his astonishing overall financial success build on a foundation of intelligence and hard work than his second-to-none skills as a hip-hop artist. Carter is also a vocal activist.
Through REFORM Alliance, a nonprofit advocacy group he founded with acclaimed hip-hop artist Meek Mill, Carter aspires to overhaul the criminal justice system by “changing the laws, policies and practices that perpetuate injustice,” according to the organization’s website. In a league in which the on-field workforce is almost 70 percent black, having Carter involved at a high level will please many players.