JAY-Z Combats 1 NFL Owner’s Divisive Words With A Message Of Unity (Video)

This weekend, ESPN magazine reported on just what transpired behind the National Football League’s closed doors. Earlier this month, several owners, players, and league officials met to discuss the ongoing National Anthem protests. Criticism, TV boycotts, and declining attendance continue to plague the NFL’s revenue and public image. Thereby, the mid-October two-day New York City gathering hoped to find a solution, and hear all sides.

The story journalists Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. completed for the November 13 issue (published online this weekend) may have further complicated things.

“Morale was bad inside the league office, and the pressure was not letting up. There was the looming notion that sponsors would leave the NFL — not just because of the protests but because of an array of challenges confronting the league, including the continuing decline in TV ratings,” the feature states of the mood going into the meetings. “Nearly all of the league’s longtime sponsors, from Papa John’s to USAA, were rattled, and fissures within the league offices and teams, to say nothing of the players, were starting to expand.”

The report describes some of the concerns from players, from ownership, and league officials following Colin Kaepernick’s 2016 kneeling during the National Anthem. Kaep’ recently filed a grievance that owners colluded against signing him to play in the 2017 season. He has yet to be picked up by any team. While the first day of the meetings invited only some owners (reportedly ones who had less controversial stances on the protests), the second day of the meetings was open to all. ESPN writes how three of the pro-standing owners, Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder, Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, and Houston Texans’ Bob McNair took the floor. It was the words from the last mentioned owner, that has stirred major controversy. McNair, who gave $4.5 million to (adamant protest critic) Donald Trump’s campaign in 2016, spoke his concerns with, “We can’t have the inmates running the prison.” ESPN writes that upon that comparison apparently referring to the players’ power, some in the room were “stunned.”

The magazine details one former player’s reaction. “Troy Vincent stood up. He was offended by McNair’s characterization of the players as ‘inmates.’ Vincent said that in all his years of playing in the NFL — during which, he said, he had been called every name in the book, including the N-word — he never felt like an ‘inmate.'” Troy now serves as Executive Vice President of Football Operations for the NFL. The report continues, “It was starting to get nasty. [Troy] Vincent and [Jerry] Jones had a sharp but quick back-and-forth, with Jones finally reminding the room that rather than league office vice presidents, it was he and fellow owners who had helped build the NFL’s $15 billion-a-year business, and they would ultimately decide what to do. [Bob] McNair later pulled Vincent aside and apologized, saying that he felt horrible and that his words weren’t meant to be taken literally, which Vincent appreciated.”

With McNair’s closed-door words going public through the media, there has been a backlash.

Enter JAY-Z, a music mogul and superstar who knows the sports business firsthand. Before Jay became a sports agent, extending his company into Roc Nation Sports, he was part of the Brooklyn Nets ownership in the early 2010s. While he relinquished that stake in 2013, Jay spoke out against Bob NcNair’s comments this weekend, disseminating the news from ESPN. He combated McNair’s verbal slip, with a succinct message of love.

“Injuring themselves on the field, giving it all they got,” JAY-Z began in Anaheim, California on Friday night (October 27) at the first night of his 4:44 Tour. “That’s how they look at you. That’s what they think about you. We got so much further to go. The truth is we all believe in whatever you believe in: God, Allah—whatever you believe in, we come from one source which means we are all brothers and sisters at the end of the day.” Jay then performed 4:44‘s “The Story Of O.J.,” a song that deal’s with the Black identity as it relates to the perception of others. Jay dedicated that performance of the song (which takes its name from former college and pro football star O.J. Simpson) to late politician, activist, and comedian Dick Gregory.

JAY-Z rang in the month by wearing a #7 jersey, with “Colin K” on the back while performing on SNL. The Brooklyn, New Yorker demonstrated solidarity with the inactive quarterback. Jay’s artist, J. Cole, has also been a close ally of the former San Francisco 49ers starter.

“Inmates” are another cause of JAY-Z’s in 2017. At Father’s Day, the mogul and Roc Nation offered to bail out those separated from their children because of lack of funds. Jay has also produced a film on the life and death of Kalief Browder and advocated for prisoner’s rights and prison reform as a whole.

Today (October 29) as McNair’s team, the Houston Texans took the field in Seattle, Washington against the Seahawks. Reportedly many in attendance gave those protesting on the visiting team a standing ovation, ahead of the Hawks’ victory.

The full “Gaffes, TV Ratings Concerns Dominated As NFL, Players Forged Anthem Peace” feature by Seth Wickersham and Don Van Natta, Jr. is at ESPN.

#BonusBeat: A recent TBD episode examined how big media may have been ignoring impacts of an NFL TV boycott on those siding with Colin Kaepernick:

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