Kaepernick isn’t the only reason working with the NFL is making a deal with the devil
Blackballing Kap for kneeling is just one part of their problem, and it might not even be the worst thing that the league has ever done.
By Stanley Fritz
Last week, rap legend and newly minted billionaire Jay-Z showed us the limits and flaws of “Black capitalism” when he signed a deal with the NFL. This is, of course, the same league that has gone out of its way to block Colin Kaepernick from playing because he kneeled during the national anthem to protest police violence against Black people.
The agreement between the NFL and Hov will make him the co-producer of their half-time show and promote their “social justice initiatives.” So far, the announced deal has not gone the way that Hov or the NFL likely expected. The Brooklyn rapper has received heavy criticism for what many believe to be a betrayal of Colin Kaepernick’s fight to re-enter the league. And while Hov and his supporters fight to legitimize his decision, the NFL is walking away from this partnership with a “Black Friend“to help them gaslight the masses whenever they get pressed about his continued unemployment.
As much as Hov and Roger Godell try to clean this agreement up, and make it seem like it’s a step in the right direction, the league has done nothing to inspire trust. Blackballing Kap for kneeling is just one part of their problem, but it might not even be the worst thing that the league has ever done. By partnering with the NFL, Jay-Z has decided to join forces with an organization whose white supremacy manifests in many more forms than are currently being discussed.
For years the league has promised to get tough on domestic violence charges against their players. After much criticism, in 2014 they finally rolled out a policy that many at the time thought would be decisive, and fair. A first time offender could be suspended for up to six games without pay. A second time offender would face a one year suspension with the risk of never returning to the league again. Despite the bold language, we have seen several examples of players who violate the rules and face no such penalty.
Repeat offenders aren’t even in danger of receiving the same blackballing that Kaepernick did. Two days after Linebacker Reuben Foster was released by the San Francisco 49ers on domestic violence charges for the second time, he was picked up by the Washington Redskins. When the front office was challenged on why they would take a chance on someone who was clearly under investigation for a serious crime, and had previous transgressions on that same topic, the only response they could muster was that signing Foster was “not an easy decision.” Eventually the criticism became too loud to ignore and the league put Foster on the inactive list and under investigation, but that didn’t last very long. After the brief “investigation” they found “no evidence” to justify a suspension, and Foster still plays with the Redskins.
This same indifference showed up when Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice was caught abusing his then-fiancé. Initially, the league suspended Rice for two games, his team held a press conference where they suggested that Janay Rice apologized for her role in the ordeal, and the league promised to do better. But shortly after Rice completed his suspension and began playing again, a video of the altercation was leaked showing that Rice not only knocked Janay out in an elevator, but also dragged her out unconscious body out of it. Now, the league was quick to respond, saying that the video drove home the seriousness of the issue. The Ravens released him, and he was suspended indefinitely by the league. That action might have been more believable as authentic if authorities didn’t confirm that the league had the jarring video months before it became public.
There are many other examples, and when the league isn’t ignoring or under-reacting to violence against women from their players, they are quietly—or sometimes loudly—supporting legislation, and politicians who are actively working to make the lives for Black and non-Black people of color significantly harder.
Take for example New York Jets owner Woody Johnson. In the 2012 presidential election, he supported Mitt Romney, and in 2016 threw his hat in the ring for Jeb Bush before coming out for Donald Trump. He now serves as the American Ambassador to England for the Trump Administration.
Johnson isn’t the only enthusiastic Trump Supporter. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft has long been open about his love for Trump, even donating $1 million dollars towards the president’s inaugural ceremony. In his most recent comments about the racist in chief, he claimed that Trump was “working very hard for the country’s best interest.” He said this as the Trump Administration was putting children in cages, and empowering an FBI that views groups like Black Lives Matter as a terrorist organization.
Houston Texans owner—and proud Trump supporter—Bob McNair referred to his own players as inmates in a prison while discussing the topic of kneeling during the national anthem. In response, 30 of those players kneeled to protest his comments, but still played. Once what he said became public, he apologized and the league “strongly condemned” his comments but made no efforts to hold him accountable. Several months later, McNair publicly expressed regret for apologizing for his remarks, saying that he was talking about the “owners not the players” and had nothing to apologize for.
When Jay decided to get in bed with the NFL, he was making a conscious decision to ignore an organization whose main goal is to accumulate unlimited funds on the backs of Black and brown bodies, all while they ignore violence against women, and support legislation that will kill the same Black and brown people that have allowed them to get this rich. This isn’t a case of working with a group that has had some issues in the past but honestly wants to do better.
We have long known how trash the league was, and they have long made it clear that business is good anyway, and they don’t have to change. This partnership doesn’t come with any expectations for owners and executives to take anti-racism training, and no plans to hire Black women to unpack the ways that toxic masculinity impacts the behavior of these players, and how it shows up in their relationships with the women in their lives. The league didn’t even agree to admit the role they played in driving Michael Sam, the first openly gay NFL player, out of the league.
And if Jay is able to look past all of this, what does that say about him and the things he values? Is he really trying to help, or is his goal to take a slice of the blood money that runs so abundantly in their spaces? No matter what his intentions are, this isn’t just about Kaepernick. It’s far larger than that.
Stanley Fritz is the New York City Campaign Manager at Citizen Action of New York, and the co-host for political podcast, Let Your Voice Be Heard! He also writes for Let’s Not Be Trash, a website dedicated to talking to men about patriarchy and sexism