Jay- Z and the NFL: Optics or Social Justice By Chama St. Louis

Social justice is a political and philosophical concept which holds that all people should have equal access to wealth, health, well-being, justice, and opportunity. 

In other words – EQUITY. Controversies have arisen in regards to Jay-Z’s recent partnership with the NFL. “The partnership was said to include consulting on who the league booked for live music performances, including the Super Bowl, as well as the social justice initiative Inspire Change.”

I read the NFL’s “social justice” campaign.  

Nowhere in the initiatives does the NFL talk about creating equity in any of the social justice elements mentioned internally WITHIN the NFL or any form of police reform. 

The NFL will not become more equitable, it also has no plans to push or advocate against police brutality. The CEO stated he would not be advocating against brutality but would work to help each group “see both perspectives.”

The entire Jay Z versus other civil rights leaders and movements conversation is very telling about how many of us in the black community literally have not taken the time to learn about our historical leaders and the strategy or reasons behind the movements that took place. 

Many of us have never rolled up a sleeve for any type of social justice work to know the difference between what real strategy for a social justice movement looks like versus a “moment” for social justice. 

This partnership represents a “moment for social justice.” As I believe it was an “add-on” to lessen the blowback of the partnership.

The idea that we can “pressure corporate power until it becomes “woke,” and then they bring you in as a partner to enact social change,” is flawed.  Jay -Z is seemingly endorsing the idea that the NFL really has become socially conscious and culturally aware. That the same NFL who funds Donald Trump and black balled Colin for bringing awareness to police abuse will now become a trail blazer in continuing the social justice work Colin started, despite all the signs that says this is not the case. 

“So is Shawn Carter a sellout or just a brilliant businessman creating progress by breaking into these rarefied corridors of power?” I’m going to venture to say a bit of both.

”The truth is actually much more banal. None of this is about social justice. It’s not about, as Shawn Carter put it, “helping millions and millions of people.” “This partnership is happening because Shawn Carter is a billionaire who wants to be an NFL owner, and erasing Colin Kaepernick is the price of admission.”

“The NFL wants Jay-Z to solve its optics problem.” Jay Z has admitted he wants to take the kneeling protest off the field, and put it in a podcast or some other media outlet, this means people will not be reminded about police brutality and lack of equity when they watch football; which ultimately helps the NFL. 

The ugly truth is that this deal doesn’t help millions of people like Jay says it will (whether he is aware of that or not, I’m not sure). It helps Jay (I’m sure he’s aware of this though). 

This deal admittedly by the CEO will not push for policy and legislative changes for police reform. Jay has done some wonderful philanthropy work. We can’t take away from that. However, philanthropic work and personal interest in certain high profile social justice cases doesn’t necessarily mean an automatic fight for real social change in the form of a mass movement. 

To make it personal to Peoria; I don’t see the difference between this deal and our own city government pushing racist policies or ignoring minority groups and trying to save face when publicly exposed by saying “we’re gonna meet with black pastors or black leaders and give them a seat at the table…” but with no real decision making power. Only to be used as a pacification tool. 

And honestly what’s the difference between Jay and Kanye West right now? Besides Jay’s personality being more palatable, one supports Trump, the other supports one of Trump’s major supporters.

Yes, only time will tell how all of this will play out. I hope for the sake of black people, it plays out in our favor. I hope I can double back and admit I was completely wrong and eat my words. I want to give him the benefit of the doubt, but watching the press conference was cringe-worthy and his answers were a train wreck. 

Chama St. Louis is a Community Organizer, Activist, Consultant&Owner, Euphoria Aerial & Dance Academy