Earlier this week, Jay-Z announced a partnership with the NFL under his Roc Nation imprint, in which he'll act as the league’s “live music entertainment strategist.” And while the role will see Jay-Z help curate the league’s high profile Super Bowl halftime show among other various music-related endeavors, he’ll also reportedly help bolster the NFL’s various social justice initiatives.
For a league that’s been feeling the heat in minority communities and beyond for the way it mishandled the Colin Kaepernick-led national anthem protests, the partnership should have theoretically been widely celebrated. That wasn’t the case.
Some people, including Kaeprnick’s ex-teammate and fellow activist Erc Reid, and his girlfriend, Nessa Diab, have openly criticized Jay for excluding Kaepernick from early discussions, and for partnering with a league that continues to block him from employment. On Friday, another high profile figure seemingly condemned Jay-Z for getting into bed with the NFL.
As Uproxx points out, Rihanna liked an Instagram post from social activist Shaun King, in which he called out Jay for partnering with the NFL despite being one of Kaepernick’s most vocal supporters in the past. While Rihanna quickly unliked the image, gossip account @theneighborhoodtalk captured the image for all to see.
It’s worth remembering that Rihanna is just one of many artists who have distanced themselves from the NFL in support of Kaepernick. She also happens to be signed to Roc Nation, so her disappointment in the move carries even more weight. She had reportedly turned down a chance to perform at the last Super Bowl halftime show, and the development hampers any speculation that Jay-Z's deal might make it more possible that she would take the gig in the future.
Jay-Z addressed the controversy at a press conference Wednesday, and even claimed that he had spoken to Kaepernick before the deal was done. That claim has since been refuted by those in Kaepernick’s inner circle, which doesn’t bode well for the partnership moving forward.