Jay-Z still backs protests and kneeling after agreeing NFL partnership

14 August 2019, 21:18 | Updated: 15 August 2019, 06:38

Jay-Z insists he still supports protesting, kneeling and NFL player Colin Kaepernick after the rap icon announced his company Roc Nation was partnering with the NFL.

The Grammy winner and entrepreneur fielded questions alongside NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell at his company's New York City headquarters on Wednesday.

Jay-Z said he is interested in working with the league to make substantial changes, and revealed he spoke with Kaepernick before he took on the partnership.

The rapper has been among the biggest supporters of Kaepernick, who sparked debate in the NFL when he decided to kneel when the national anthem was played before games to protest the killings of blacks by police officers.

Kaepernick has not played for the NFL since he opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers in 2017. Earlier this year, the NFL settled a lawsuit brought by Kaepernick and Eric Reid that alleged that owners colluded to keep them from playing in the league.

When directly asked if he would kneel or stand, Jay-Z said: "I think we've moved past kneeling and I think it's time to go into actionable items."

He then added: "No, I don't want people to stop protesting at all. Kneeling, I know we're stuck on it because it's a real thing, but kneeling is a form of protest. I support protest across the board.

"We need to bring light to the issue. I think everyone knows what the issue is, we're done with that," he added.

"We all know the issue now. Okay, next. What are we moving (on to) next? And I'm not minimising that part of it because that has to happen, that's a necessary part of the process.

"But now that we all know what's going on, what are we going to do? How are we going to stop it? Because the kneeling was not about a job, it was about injustice."

When asked why he did not involve Kaepernick in the new Roc Nation-NFL deal, Jay-Z said: "You'd have to ask him. I'm not his boss. I can't just bring him into something. That's for him to say."

Jay-Z also said he and Kaepernick had a conversation about the new deal but offered no details about what was discussed.

The NFL and Jay-Z's entertainment and sports representation company announced on Tuesday they were teaming up for events and social activism, a deal Jay-Z said had been in the works over the last seven months.

"First thing I said to Roger was, 'If this is about me performing at the Super Bowl, then we can just end this conversation now," Jay-Z said.

The league plans to use Roc Nation - home to Rihanna, DJ Khaled and other artists - to consult on and co-produce its entertainment presentations, including the Super Bowl halftime show.

The NFL will also work with Jay-Z's company to help its Inspire Change initiative, created by the league after an agreement with a coalition of players who demonstrated during the national anthem to protest social and racial injustice in this country.

Those demonstrations were sparked by Kaepernick kneeling during the national anthem in 2016.

"Everyone's saying, 'How are you going forward if Kaep doesn't have a job?' This was not about him having a job. That became part of it," Jay-Z said. "We know what it is - now how do we address that injustice? What's the way forward?"

Jay-Z added "the NFL has a huge platform and we can use that huge platform."

"I believe real change is had through conversation, real conversation and real work ... and what better way to do it than where the conversation first took place."

Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid - a close friend and supporter of Kaepernick's who withdrew from the Players Coalition because he disagreed with its vision - criticised the Roc Nation-NFL partnership Tuesday on Twitter.

"I won't quit playing but I will be a royal pain in the NFL's a** for acting like they care about people of colour by forming numerous disingenuous partnerships to address social injustice while collectively blackballing Colin, the person who brought oppression and social injustice to the forefront of the NFL platform," Reid wrote.

Goodell told reporters he anticipated criticism over the partnership, but that it would not prevent a deal from getting done.

"I don't think either one of us expected that this relationship wouldn't have its critics," Goodell said.

"But you don't let the critics or the negativity overwhelm the chance to do something really positive. We talked about [Kaepernick's situation]. We talked about a variety of issues."