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NFL Comes Out Winner In Jay-Z Vs. Kaep Debate


For the last week, the major question raging through African American barbershops, backyard barbecues and other places where black men gather had nothing to do with a possible impending recession or where to buy good property on Greenland.

No, the burning debate centers on whether one Shawn Corey Carter has left Colin Kaepernick hanging high and dry with his new deal with the NFL.

Carter, the real name of hip-hop impresario Jay-Z, has struck an arrangement with the league whereby his entertainment company, Roc-Nation, will provide substantial input into who is brought on for events like the Super Bowl halftime show.

Jay-Z and his company will also apparently help shape how the NFL adopts social justice initiatives by providing spots for players to comment on events of the day.

Hmm. That’s interesting, because last we checked, Kaepernick was commenting on a pretty important issue of the day, namely perceived police brutality toward people of color, supposedly, at the time, with the support of Jay-Z.

Now, two seasons into the NFL’s freeze-out of Kaepernick with a third seemingly on the horizon, here, in the minds of many, comes Jay-Z to climb into financial bed with the very management and ownership that has denied Kaepernick a chance.

This part of the discussion, the supposed Jay-Z vs. Kaepernick battle, does not fall so easily into nice, neat winners and losers lines.

There are plenty of people who say, for instance, that Jay-Z wins by being in the room with league owners and Commissioner Roger Goodell and discussing matters of importance to blacks to the lily-white upper echelon of the league.

Who knows, these folks say? Jay-Z could well find himself in that membership someday, based in part on the relationships he’s making now.

And the moment for Kaepernick, some say, has passed. Given the notion that old and mediocre quarterbacks like Josh McCown and Ryan Fitzpatrick are getting jobs while Kaepernick doesn’t, it may be time for Kaepernick to call it a career and admit that he may have overplayed his hand in the fight for social justice.

Indeed, it could be said that Kaepernick has buried his own professional grave by settling a collusion grievance against the league in February.

Kaepernick’s supporters respond that under the collective bargaining agreement between the league and the players union, he had to file the grievance and submit himself to arbitration.

No matter the debate over whether Kaepernick is a loser and Jay-Z is a victor, there is one clear winner in this matter and that’s the NFL.

Jay-Z may not have intentionally thrown Kaepernick under the bus by not publicly pressing the league on his case, but the 32 owners now have no one to hold them accountable for blackballing Kaepernick.

In addition, Smilin’ Roger Goodell and his league get their reputations scrubbed from allegations of racism and discrimination by one of the pre-eminent figures in the African-American community.

Maybe Kaepernick can find an advocate from the other resident in the Carter household, Beyonce. Now she could get things done.

And that’s how I see it for this week. 

Milton Kent hosted the weekly commentary Sports at Large from its creation in 2002 to its finale in July 2013. He has written about sports locally and nationally since 1988, covering the Baltimore Orioles, University of Maryland men's basketball, women's basketball and football, the Washington Wizards, the NBA, men's and women's college basketball and sports media for the Baltimore Sun and AOL Fanhouse. He has covered the World Series, the American and National League Championship Series, the NFL playoffs, the NBA Finals and 17 NCAA men's and women's Final Fours. He currently teaches journalism at Morgan State University.