A timeline of JAY-Z’s relationship with the NFL

How the Brooklyn rapper went from showing public support for Colin Kaepernick to holding press conferences with Roger Goodell.

September 06, 2019
A timeline of JAY-Z’s relationship with the NFL Photo: Jeff Zelevansky / Getty Images   Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images

Since JAY-Z and Roc Nation announced their partnership with NFL in August, the tide of Twitter opinion seems to have quickly turned against the Brooklyn rapper. While JAY claimed the move was "the next thing" in making changes to the league, many wondered whether this move would serve the greater good or serve JAY-Z. How did the mogul go from wearing a Kaepernick jersey to sitting at a conference room table with Roger Goodell? Below is a brief history of the rapper's relationship to the league and the protests.

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September 2017

On September 15, 2017, JAY-Z took the stage for his headlining set at the Meadows Music and Arts Festival in Queens. The festival performance was the Brooklyn rapper's first show in his native New York City in three years, and he took the opportunity to dedicate a song to Colin Kaepernick.

Before running through his 4:44 cut "The Story of O.J.," JAY-Z addressed the crowd: “I want to dedicate this song to Colin Kaepernick tonight,” he said. “I want to dedicate this song to Dick Gregory. I want to dedicate this song to any body who was held back and you overcame whatever it was.”

At the time, Kaepernick remained unsigned in free agency after his season of peaceful protest.

September 2017: JAY-Z reportedly turns down Super Bowl halftime show

With tensions between players and ownership at a high, reports surfaced claiming JAY-Z had turned down an offer to perform at the 2018 Super Bowl halftime show.

In response, a spokesperson for the NFL told BBC that they had made "no decision" regarding performers for the event. "No decisions have been made on the performer(s) and we are not going to speculate on particular artists," the NFL's statement read. "Along with Pepsi, we know that we will put on a spectacular show. When it is time to announce her name we will do it. Or his name. Or their names."

October 2017: JAY-Z wears Kaepernick jersey during SNL performance

During a performance on Saturday Night Live in October 2017, JAY-Z showed silent support for Kaepernick. Taking the stage with Damian Marley, he wore a black jersey with “Colin K” on the back and the quarterback's number "7" on each side.

November 2017: JAY-Z addresses NFL protests during 4:44 tour

With the 2017 NFL season underway, and Kaepernick still unsigned, JAY-Z addressed the ongoing NFL protests at large during a stop in Miami on his 4:44 tour.

"I want yall to understand, when people are kneeling and putting their firsts up, and doing what they're doing, it's not about a flag," he told the crowd. "It's about justice, it's about injustice. And that's not a black or white thing — it's a human issue."


June 2018: "Tell the NFL we in stadiums too"

On "Apeshit," the single from JAY-Z and Beyoncé's collab project as The Carters, JAY seemed to confirm reports that he had declined the Super Bowl halftime show offer. He rapped, "I said no to the Super Bowl: you need me, I don't need you/ Every night we in the endzone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too."

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October 2018: JAY-Z calls Jermaine Dupri about his NFL work
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Jan 26th lets go!!!!! @atlsuperbowl53

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In October 2018, Jermaine Dupri announced a partnership with NFL to produce events around the Super Bowl in Atlanta. Following JAY-Z's recent deal with the NFL, multiple sources have claimed that the rapper called Jermaine Dupri at the time, urging him not to work with the league.

On a livestream after JAY-Z's NFL deal was announced, songwriter Bryan Michael Cox said that JAY-Z had called Jermaine Dupri at the time and said, "We're talking about a guy who single-handedly called... Jermaine [Dupri] to tell him not to do it." Cox went on to say that the Jermaine Dupri deal was "the same program" that JAY-Z eventually signed on for.

Funkmaster Flex also wrote on Twitter that he had spoken with Jermaine Dupri: "HE CONFIRMED THAT WHEN HE WAS WORKING WITH THE NFL LAST YEAR HE DID GET A CALL FROM JAYZ ASKING HIM.. “HOW DEEP ARE U IN WITH THE NFL?” EXPRESSING... “THAT MIGHT NOT BE A GOOD IDEA”

In an interview with Atlanta's V-103 station in August 2019, Jermaine Dupri confirmed that JAY-Z had called him about his work with the NFL but said, "[JAY-Z] never told me don't do what I was doing."

August 2019: NFL partnership announced

On August 13, the NFL announced its partnership with JAY-Z and Roc Nation, as The New York Times reported. The partnership was said to include consulting on who the league booked for live music performances, including the Super Bowl, as well as the social justice initiative Inspire Change.

In a press conference with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell the next day, JAY-Z said he had spoken to Colin Kaepernick about the deal but wouldn't divulge what exactly was discussed.

“I think that we forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice, correct?” JAY-Z said at the press conference, according to Rolling Stone. “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?’ So for me it was like, action, actionable item, what are we going to do with it? Everyone heard and we hear what you’re saying, and everybody knows I agree with what you’re saying. So what are we going to do? So we should, millions of millions of people, and all we get stuck on [is] Colin not having a job.”

August 2019: Kaepernick subs JAY-Z?

In the wake of the NFL's announced partnership with JAY-Z and Roc Nation, many wondered what Kaepernick actually thought about the deal. Kaepernick's attorney Mark Geragos responded to ABC, saying that the deal "crosses the intellectual picket line."

Geragos also said that JAY-Z made no effort to talk to Kaepernick before the deal: “The deal was already done prior to any conversation that [Kaepernick] had with JAY-Z,” Geragos told the station, “And he certainly didn’t have any conversations with the NFL.”

Kaepernick himself seemed to be subbing JAY-Z soon after, posting a picture of a highlighted passage from Robert L. Allen's Black Awakening in Capitalist America that read, in part, “What [they] seek is not an end to oppression, but the transfer of the oppressive apparatus into their own hands.“

September 2019: The Crushers Club

The Crushers Club, one of the two groups that will receive a $200,000 donation from Roc Nation and the NFL as part of the Inspire Change initiative, came under scrutiny soon after the donation was announced. The organization, which works with at-risk kids in Chicago, seemed to encourage kids to cut off their dreadlocks in videos posted to social media and professed "All Lives Matter" in a tweet.

In a statement to The FADER, the organization's president wrote: "The Crusher’s Club does not have any policies prohibiting dreadlocks — we welcome all hairstyles from our youth. On occasion, our kids look to change their hairstyles and ask us to assist, especially since haircuts can be a costly expense for them. Our goal is — and will always be — to equip our youth with the resources to improve their neighborhoods, maximize their potential and develop into the leaders of tomorrow.”

A timeline of JAY-Z’s relationship with the NFL