By Spenser Tillman
A Six-Part Opt Ed Series on 250 Years of College and Professional Football
So here we are, on the dawn of a combined two hundred and fifty years of football: one hundred and fifty for the ahem, “amateur” version and, one hundred for its fully actualized big brother; the NFL.
If one considers the game’s appearance -from its uniforms to its evolution as a fully monetized, end-to-end marketing solution- things have indeed changed since those early years.
But after further review, foundational fissures remain and, are woeful reminders of just how little moral & structural progress has been achieved.
The SPIRIT that OWNS and DRIVES the game can be as offensive today when the correct light is cast upon it.
Take the matter of Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL. Everything is not what it seems. This opportunity like most businesses is a byproduct of a problem.
It is born out of a response to social injustice that disproportionately affects people who look like the majority of those who play the game.
Unfortunately, the Jay-Z/NFL deal is replete with flaws and dubious motives.
Jay-Z errors with his roll out!
At the news conference, he spends 98% of the time with Goodell and others talking about the art & entertainment piece of the transaction, which really isn’t THE reason the NFL agreed to work with him. The shield covets his influence more that his artistic genius.
Alternately, 2% of the time was spent on the activism part. Zero (0%) percent of the time was dedicated to unpacking any defined solution(s).
The NFL ALWAYS does what is in its best interest. ALWAYS! And, it is in their best interest that people who occupy 74% of the starting roles -on the field- stop kneeling.
So, their strategy is clear. Collaborate with the world’s wealthiest rapper -who happens to be married to one of the wealthiest female entertainers in the world and, leverage this collaboration to influence their collective core audiences; which numbers in the tens of millions. That’s how tipping-points work. Influence enough and the masses will follow.
The expectation was -by both Jay-Z & the NFL- that like lemmings, these followers would fall in line in some sort of zombie-like manner and alternately fade away when it
came to tackling the substantive part of the social injustice issue; like a news story that can’t hold our attention through a twenty-four cycle.
They were wrong!
Instead, these zombies are actually questioning and challenging Jay-Z’s motives and ultimate actions. They are right to do so.
Jay-Z’s universal proclamation that “I think we’ve moved past kneeling” was a mistake! The substance, and therefore difference, is nuanced.
Stay with me; this is not about advocating blind, disrespect for the American flag.
It is not for Jay-Z to say what others should or should not do. He should have said, “I’m sure that there are many NFL players who feel that they still need to bring attention to social injustice by kneeling. That is certainly a way to gain attention. Fortunately, I’m in a position to broker a deal with the NFL and leverage those resources to:
educate, inspire and ultimately affect material change.
I’m in the LET’S DO SOMETHING ABOUT THE CONDITIONS & ATTITUDES THAT FUEL INEQUALITY mode.
That is the goal; right?
We don’t all come to our stations in life with full awareness on important matters at the same time. Nor do we arrive as carbon copies with respect to our moral convictions on these subjects.
Our personal experiences shape our views and, we must be mindful of this as we engage those whose convictions are formed by different experiences. We assign meaning to these experiences. And the stories we rehearse to ourselves cannot just shape our view but they can define who we are.
Nick Knolte had a funny line in the forty-eight hours franchise with Eddie Murphy; it applies here…. “The eyes of justice may be blind but when it comes to money,
occasionally she peeks”.
The same can be said of this deal between Jay-Z and the NFL. The eyes of social injustice however are wide open demanding to see the equity in this union of entertainment blue bloods.
Given the gravity of the: complex and myriad issues revolving around the social injustice matter, Jay-Z and to a lesser extent the NFL. Would do well to operate as if they comprehend that we live in a world of images and impressions. MONEY should always follow, never lead!
Jay-Z & the NFL need a fresh set of downs on this drive to improve the lives of those who make the game possible.
Comment or Follow on social media @SpenceTillman.