Roc Nation founder and rapper Jay-Z on the sidelines of a Rams game | Photo courtesy of Roc Nation
The People is our section for opinions on all things concerning Black Chicago. In this opinion piece, mild-sauce connoisseur Larry Legend tells us why he stands with Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick and the Chicago Bears after Jay-Z signed a controversial deal with the NFL.

Update: A few hours after publishing this opinion piece, TMZ reported that Jay-Z is in talks to become part owner of an NFL team.

People seem to have a big issue with billionaire rapper Jay-Z over his deal with the NFL to have his Roc Nation company lead the league’s endeavors in music and entertainment. I haven’t seen people this mad at Hov since “Becky with the good hair,” so I had to research and find out what all the hoopla is about.

Before searching, I already knew that Colin Kaepernick, along with his best friend and former teammate Eric Reid, received $10 million total to settle their collusion grievances against the NFL. But seeing how Kap settled, I didn’t understand what the fuss over Jay-Z’s NFL deal was about. 

On social media, I’ve seen people saying, “How could Jay-Z work with the NFL if Kap still doesn’t have a job?” At a joint Roc Nation and NFL press conference this week, Hov said Kapernick’s kneeling protest wasn’t about a “job,” but rather about social injustice, specifically police brutality. 

“I think we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” Jay-Z said. “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?’

I really haven’t understood people’s displeasure with Jay-Z’s actions besides the fact that he hesitated when asked if he would kneel with Kap and when asked about the money he will make from this NFL deal along the way. I agree with him: we are past kneeling and we need to move forward with actions. 

But, in my opinion, a lot of people tend to want you to be upset but aren’t contributing a solution to the problem. I think that’s a regressed state of thinking.

When Kaepernick’s kneeling protest started in 2016, I was already on the verge of going through my own NFL protest because the Chicago Bears were stricken with injury and I had had enough of the Bears wasting my Sundays — after all, that is the Lord’s day. It wasn’t until 2018 when I brought myself back to Bears fandom and, although Kaepernick’s protest was still going on, I watched my Bears compete when I could. 

No part of me feels bad about keeping up with the Bears because I understood what the protest was for and I also understood how the NFL operates. I haven’t stood up for the national anthem in almost 20 years and I don’t plan on it today until a lot of things change, including the lyrics to the song itself. I knew that white America wasn’t going to be pleased with NFL players kneeling during the national anthem, but I hoped that all NFL players of color unify and join Kap. 

That didn’t happen.

People have families to feed. I totally understand that. And although I selfishly wanted the players to take a stand, to risk losing money for a greater cause, I feel like Kap’s words were heard loud and clear, even in his silent protest. 

I also feel like Hov’s move was a progressive one and that we need to give it space to grow. Kaepernick did the groundwork and now we have to build on that. The NFL has to allow players to express themselves as people, not solely as players. The NFL has to be more like the NBA, and not stray away from the social issues going on that affect everyone from the fans to the players to the employees of the organization. The NFL’s needs to make changes that will positively affect their entire community instead of promoting a spineless media campaign for social justice for a year or two. 

As fans, we have to be more open minded to the ideas that can help and not focus on the negative. With this Jay-Z deal, we’re too focused on the negative. I’m interested to see what Jay-Z can do with his new venture and how it will work for our people. In the meantime, let’s brainstorm and share ideas that we would like to see Jay-Z and his Roc Nation imprint execute from the inside. 

I’m going to watch the NFL this season ONLY because the Bears are Super Bowl candidates in my eyes, and I have to witness this. However, I still stand with Kap and I still believe in Shawn Corey Carter, a.k.a. Hov, a.k.a. Jay-Z. Kaepernick’s stance is about police brutality and racial injustice. And even though he’s being blackballed out of the NFL, many more Black men still are employed by the NFL and more will join each year. 

So with that being said, I want to have faith and believe that Jay-Z’s work with the league will lead to better treatment of OUR people, OUR voice and OUR concerns today and in the future.

Larry Legend is one of the hosts of Smoked Out Saturdaze, a YouTube show for people who enjoy good conversation over some of the finer trees in life.