(NEW YORK) — Rap artist Jay-Z is teaming up with the NFL for a new partnership focusing on music and social justice, following the controversy the league faced over its handling of players kneeling to protest police brutality.
Jay-Z will become the National Football League’s “live music entertainment strategist,” a role the NFL says will enhance the live game experience and amplify its social justice efforts.
The rapper called the partnership “an opportunity to strengthen the fabric of communities across America.”
“With its global reach, the National Football League has the platform and opportunity to inspire change across the country,” Jay-Z, whose birth name is Shawn Carter, said in a statement.
Jay-Z and Roger Goodell, the commissioner of the NFL, will speak about the deal in a press conference Wednesday afternoon.
The partnership with Roc Nation, Jay-Z’s entertainment company, comes after the league faced a wave of player protests and heavy scrutiny — including from the rapper — over how it dealt with the protests.
Beginning in 2016, some football players took a knee during the playing of the national anthem at games to protest police brutality against people of color. Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback believed to be the leader of the protest movement, has not been with an NFL team since end of the 2016 season.
The NFL later issued a new national anthem policy in which players were allowed to stay in the locker room for the national anthem if they did not want to stand, but those on the field were expected to stand.
Jay-Z spoke out in favor of Kaepernick’s protests and, at one point, even seemed to take aim at the league.
“Would you rather be playing football, getting your head dinged in, or would you rather be an iconic figure for the rest of your life?” he told CNN’s Van Jones in January 2018, speaking about Kaepernick.
Months later, Jay-Z released a song with Beyoncé in which he appeared to criticize the NFL.
“I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you,” he rapped on Ape—-. “Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we in stadiums, too.”
Jay-Z appears to change his tune with the new partnership, which will be a multiyear deal.
A major component of the partnership will be to work with the NFL’s Inspire Change initiative, which launched in early 2019 and focuses on education and economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform.
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