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The NFL has an image problem, and it’s painfully aware of it. America’s most popular sports league has been in a backslide ever since the controversial Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the Star-Spangled Banner in what he said was a silent protest to show solidarity with oppressed black people and people of colour.
When asked about the controversy, Kaepernick said “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.” Disregarding whether those statements are true or not, they split the NFL into two simple camps: those who agreed, and those who disagreed.
Following these antics, Kaepernick struggled to find work across the NFL, being essentially blacklisted from ever being an NFL quarterback again.
Owners and general managers assessed that signing Kaepernick wasn’t worth the risk. Kaepernick’s resume, while decent enough for a young career, wasn’t worth the trouble of signing him to a team. But this in and of itself has caused the NFL to go through some very notable woes.
Viewership has been in virtual freefall. The Super Bowl’s viewership was the lowest in a decade. Multiple artists reportedly declined the offer to be apart of the half-time show.
So, what is the correct approach to the NFL’s conundrum? A team signing Kaepernick would be a direct slap in the face to those who feel Kaepernick was disrespecting the flag, and any team that signs him would surely see a fan-base exodus.
The road to redemption, perhaps, lies with Jay-Z.
Jay-Z and the path to forgiveness
Jay-Z, rapper, producer, and highly successful businessman (… business, man!), held a joint media session at the Roc Nation office in New York, to seal a partnership that the NFL likely sees as a step on their road to redemption.
But, to no one’s surprise, the stunt was not perceived well by the general public. Some speculated that Jay-Z’s alignment with the NFL will give “guilt-free access to black audience, culture, entertainers, and influencers,” and that the league would rather weasel out of an apology.
Instead, it should be seen as a necessary advancement in a situation the NFL has handled poorly.
If there is anyone in the world more appropriate for the NFL to go to, they do not immediately come to mind. Jay-Z has been a longtime activist within the black community. As the Atlantic perfectly put it, “he has consistently used his platform to have critical conversations and bring awareness to the inequalities and injustices that black people regularly face,” having donated millions to numerous causes.
Sadly, a genuinely well-intentioned move by the NFL has been sniped by cynicism. The NFL is surely frustrated by the amount of media attention that Kaepernick is still receiving, but it appears clearer by the year that to the NFL, that saga has concluded. Instead, the NFL is prepared to move forward through means that do not involve the man who’s caused them so many headaches.
“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” Jay-Z said during the press conference. “So, in that case, this is a success; this is the next thing. ’Cause there’s two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?’ So, for me, it was like, action, actionable item, what are we going to do with it? Everyone heard and we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying. So what are we going to do? So we should, millions of millions of people, and all we get stuck on [is] Colin not having a job. I think we’re past kneeling. I think it’s time for action.”Jay-Z at the Roc-Nation headquarters, when asked about the Kaepernick situation
Jay-Z is a tremendously respected man across a variety of mediums. He’s one of the most accomplished musicians and has time and time again been a voice for those who feel marginalized. His perspective, one which involves moving forward instead of focusing on a nearly four-year-old controversy, is the correct outlook, and one that should be adopted by more viewers.