(AllHipHop News) A lot of people have had something to say about Shawn "Jay-Z" Carter's new partnership with the National Football League. The deal apparently involves both an entertainment element and support for the NFL's social justice-related Inspire Change initiative.
Some critics accused Jay-Z of helping The Shield reform its image after years of bad publicity connected to Colin Kaepernick's accusation that he is being blackballed from the league for peacefully protesting police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem. In contrast, proponents of the Jay-Z/NFL alliance celebrated a powerful black man having a seat at the table to hopefully bring change from within.
ESPN First Take commentator Stephen A. Smith fell in the second group. The television personality used a segment of First Take to defend Jay and call out Eric Reid, the Carolina Panthers player and Kaepernick's former teammate who has been vocal about his disagreement with Jay working with the NFL.
"The reality of the situation is: Colin Kaepernick protested to bring attention to the racial oppression that exists in our society. He stood up. He made a sacrifice. We recognize that and we appreciate that," said Smith. "But in the same breath, we need to understand that everybody is entitled to embrace it differently. Colin Kaepernick didn't make this move for Colin Kaepernick. Colin Kaepernick, supposedly, made if for a bigger reason, to affect the lives of so many others even if it sacrificed himself. So guess what? Now it has. So what's the surprise there?"
He continued, "If Jay decides to collaborate with the NFL and use the strong-arm of the NFL to impact disenfranchised communities throughout our nation in a very positive way, then excuse me, wasn't that the goal that Colin Kaepernick had? Wasn't that the goal that Eric Reid had? Wasn't that the goal of a plethora of other people who supported them had? It wasn't about getting Colin Kaepernick back in the NFL. It was about making sure that the issues that Colin Kaepernick illuminated for all of us were being addressed."
Smith went on to point out that Reid is criticizing Jay-Z for partnering with NFL while Reid is also currently playing in the NFL. The sports journalist then agreed that Kaepernick is likely being blackballed by the league now, but Stephen A. claimed Kap, at one point, had opportunities to sign with franchises such as the Baltimore Ravens and the Miami Dolphins.
The QB was reportedly prevented from getting back on the field because his girlfriend Nessa Diab posted a negative tweet about Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti and Hall of Famer Ray Lewis. The Dolphins supposedly passed on Kaepernick because he once wore a t-shirt featuring Fidel Castro which was viewed as very unfavorable by members of the large anti-Castro Cuban-American population in Miami.
Eric Reid saw Stephen A. Smith's commentary and responded on Twitter. The Louisiana native wrote, "We never advocated for Colin to lose his job while we fought against systemic oppression. That’s unjust, and where the NFL inserted itself into this. Now the NFL is 'championing' social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing Colin. So we will fight to get Colin’s job back as well. Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community."
Jay-Z spoke about Colin Kaepernick's kneeling protest during a news conference. The Roc Nation head said, "There [are] 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?’ I think we have moved past kneeling. I think it's time for action." He added, "We forget that Colin's whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase."