Hey Jay-Z, are we still past kneeling?

OPINION: Two and a half years ago, Roc Nation partnered with the NFL to highlight the league's social justice efforts and, in your words, pursue 'actionable items.' Perhaps one of those 'actionable items' is telling the league to hire more Black head coaches.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

Dear Jay-Z,

It’s been two-and-a-half years since your company Roc Nation partnered with the NFL to “amplify the league’s social justice efforts,” according to the press release. This is just a check-in to see how it’s going. 

Also wondering what you think about former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores’ lawsuit against the NFL, alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices and racial discrimination.

In response, the league said “diversity is core to everything we do,” and it vowed to “defend against these claims, which are without merit.” Do you believe that? Takes some nerve to state they “continue to make progress in providing equitable opportunities,” when there’s only one Black head coach (as of Thursday) and white coaches have filled five of nine openings this cycle

The Minnesota Vikings are expected to make it six by hiring Los Angeles Rams offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell, but they can’t complete the deal until after the Super Bowl.  

Guess the league wants us to believe that the thrust of Flores’ complaint is purely coincidental. Sure, it’s mere happenstance that since the Rooney Rule was passed nearly 20 years ago, only 15 out of roughly 129 head coaching positions have been filled by Black candidates, according to the lawsuit. That computes to 11 percent of such positions going to Black coaches …in a league that’s 70 percent Black.

“This isn’t about me; this is bigger than football,” Flores said in an interview on ESPN’s Get Up. “This is about equal opportunity for qualified Black candidates, not just in football, but everywhere.”

Fired last month after three seasons, including back-to-back winning campaigns, he’s pretty impressive, huh? Jigga, he also hails from Brooklyn, and our homeboy is risking his livelihood to smooth the way for future generations of Black coaches. 

It brings to mind another NFL figure who sacrificed his career. You’ll recall that Colin Kaepernick brought social justice to the league’s attention by kneeling during the national anthem in 2016. You even referenced Kaep when folks questioned your alliance with the organization that ostracized him.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Jay Z at the Roc Nation and NFL Partnership Announcement at Roc Nation on August 14, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for Roc Nation)

“I think we’ve moved past kneeling,” you said after some yucks with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell as your partnership was announced. “I think it’s time to go on to actionable items.”

To be honest, several items have rung hollow. I know the league has cut checks and partnered with players. I know it has vowed to spend $250 million over 10 years on initiatives that include education, police-community relations, criminal justice reform, and economic advancement. And I know social justice and NFL hiring practices aren’t necessarily the same thing.

But when we see those slogans during games and when we think about owners blackballing Kaep while bankrolling enemies of justice, it’s hard to take y’all seriously. The whole campaign seems like a cruel joke every time a helmet decal appears onscreen.

It Takes All of Us:” Really? That’s some serious victim-blaming. Check the power dynamic and try again.

End Racism:” Come on. We can’t make oppressors quit oppressing. Maybe we could scream louder.

Stop Hate:” Seriously? Take a look in the mirror and get white folks in check. Historically, we’re loving and forgiving to a fault.

Black Lives Matter:” Ditto for Black voters, students, and NFL coaches. Yet owners’ donations and hires say otherwise.

Inspire Change:” Please. We’ve been trying to do that for 400 years. Perhaps Flores’ lawsuit will help.

Wouldn’t it be great if Flores landed with the New Orleans Saints or Houston Texans? He interviewed with both after filing his lawsuit, informing them ahead of time. Each claims Flores hasn’t been ruled out, despite the pending litigation. 

Anyway, the merits of this case don’t hinge on his employment status, now or later. But if you truly want the NFL to progress, in your words, to “actionable items,” now is the time to assist. Goodell might have a heart of gold and be well-intentioned, but he works for the 32 owners. Even if he wishes Kaep had a job and more Black coaches get hired, he’s powerless. It’s up to his bosses.

So, Hova, how about you call them out and make some noise as the Super Bowl nears? 

Many of us will enjoy the halftime show Roc Nation has pulled together. But not so much for members of a particular demographic. They’re already salty about your music choices; tell them you’re mad about their coaching choices. 

You don’t want to take a knee? Fine.

Then drop some bars and light a fire.


Deron Snyder thegrio.com

An award-winning columnist and a principal of BlackDoor Ventures, Inc., Deron Snyder is a veteran journalist, stratcomm professional, author, and adjunct professor. A native of Brooklyn and an Alpha from H.U.-You Know, he resides in metropolitan DC with his wife, Vanessa, mother of their daughters, Sierra and Sequoia. To learn more, please visit blackdoorventures.com/deron.

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