Thursday, August 22, 2019

My Views on Jay-Z, Kaepernick and the NFL

I've taken a few days to formulate my opinion on this matter.  Snoop Dogg in an interview on the Breakfast Club published on August 21, 2019 gave a perspective that speaks to me, and Charlemange Tha God was also of a similar view, that the question is why do we need to pit one (Colin Kaepernick) against the other (Jay-Z)?

This Is Not A Contest, It's Not An Either Or
For our sake, and the cause of addressing injustice, we should want both these individuals to succeed because both have a role to play in keeping the attention on the unwarranted killing of African Americans at the hands of law enforcement - this is presumably the objective and not some other agenda that keeps us distracted. Take a listen to Snoop's comments here:

I have seen that many who have commented are more concerned about their own agendas and pushing ideological positions that are more distractions than adding clarity to an understanding of what we are witnessing. I think we should be careful we don't get carried away with these ideological labels.

Economic Activism and  Social Activism
Dr. Boyce Watkins made an interesting commentary on August 20, 2019 about ultra left socialists who he describes as idealists. To paraphrase, he said that they tend to be so blinded by their ideology that they harbor very little understanding of the value and power of money in helping their own struggles. I’m in agreement. I would like to point out that economic activism is just as legitimate as social activism, who is to say one has more legitimacy than the other? Below is the video of Dr Watkins' commentary:

Capitalism and Socialism
Further, I read one critique titled, Jay-Z has crossed the picket line with his NFL deal, where the writer tore into Jay-Z’s move and concluded that corporations and billionaires will not help the poor and the oppressed, but rather the solution is socialism. My question was what kind of socialism are they referring to? For example, Bernie Sanders, whose policy proposals I support for the most part, refers to himself as a democratic socialist, but I’ve never heard him claim himself to be anti-capitalist, for one because he recognizes fully well that profits are needed to fund social agendas. (Speaking of which, the converse is also true, what does it mean to be capitalist, because this too is not a single-version concept or system?)  In fact, I have read literature from some socialist groups denouncing Sanders and his proposals as not in fact being socialist enough, so what are we really talking about here when the article ends with saying socialism is the answer? This is a point that needs unpacking, because in my view the answer is not one or the other, each has some merit. 

All About The Money
I’ve read others articles like, Jay-Z Isn’t a Sellout, He’s a Capitalist, as well as heard commentary that Jay-Z is all about himself, as if he is the only party that includes self-interest as an element of their agenda. Yes, any deal made must be perceived to be mutually beneficial to all parties.  Have we forgotten that Kaepernick settled with the NFL - for money, presumably on an amount that was satisfactory to him? Have we also forgotten that if Kaepernick were to be given a job it would be for money? So I think we should be very careful not to paint ourselves into a corner. Kaepernick is as much about the money as is Jay-Z and it’s the reason his tongue is tied. So many have called for him to speak and to offer leadership beyond tweets, but, unfortunately for him, he is missing in action. From all indications if he were offered a job playing he would have taken it, and then what about 'the cause'? Nothing. We would still need to be activists the following day because the fundamental factors that give rise to the injustice being protested would still have not changed. Are any of the NFL players playing for free? Including Eric Reid and others who don the cause of social justice in a seemingly ultra righteous fashion?  Let’s be real, money is at the center of it all. And, by the tone of some of the commentary on this matter, the money itself and the ownership it can buy you is a bad thing, so the virtue remains in being a worker indefinitely. This is problematic because it does not allow for any other view or approach, and that is flawed.

It is naive to not recognize the value and power of money in a capitalist society. In case we forgot, it was Marcus Garvey who pointed out very early in the 20th century to black folks that, “wealth is strength, wealth is power, wealth is influence, wealth is justice, is liberty, is real human rights. The system of our world politics suggests such, and as a fact it is.” Nearly a hundred years later today we still see this manifest as reality. The challenge today in my view is those who may be conscious, but who are not Jay-Z have not quite figured out how to use money to their advantage, beyond the flashy displays. Jay-Z is going places and making moves very few black men have gone and can go while learning as he goes along, and that makes many black folks uncomfortable because it is not something we're used to seeing. It’s his hustle and it is just as good as anyone else’s, and we might want to muster up the courage to support him as he goes into uncharted territory. It not an either or, both Kaepernick and Jay-Z would like similar outcomes, so why are we offering those who have no interest in fairness and justice fodder by pitting them one against the other? Both strategies have merit. We can offer to support them equally.

Challenge Our Thinking: Ownership and Employment
A few days ago I came across the article, Colin Kaepernick Posts New Workout Video to Prove NFL Readiness Amid Jay-Z’s Partnership with the Organization. I found it disappointing because it conflicted with a point that is at the core of my beliefs - business and enterprise are a critical source of empowerment (NB. not the critical source of empowerment). 

I thought the article was a travesty and felt that Colin Kaepernick should stop hurting his legacy by his incessant begging for work even at this stage.  I feel he is now at a point where he can use his network to create workout videos, for example, and release them now that he has the ability to parlay his persona into so many things that can earn him way more than he will make in the NFL over time. So I felt then that he was missing Jay-Z’s point.  In my view he should now be thinking how he and his friends can own NFL teams so that they can truly prevent future blackballing of other players. In one report Jay-Z is quoted when asked about Kaepernick's involvement as saying, “I’m not his boss. I can’t just bring him into something. That’s for him to say.” Which suggests to me the door is open for Colin.  So in my view they should both be talking at this point. 

Kaepernick seems to be playing checkers while Jay-Z is playing chess in my view, which means that one has a longer term goal in mind, which may not be immediately apparent to the onlooker. However, I don't wish to unfairly blame Kaepernick since as individuals we ultimately have to play where we're comfortable. Jay’s move is a call for us to challenge our thinking. Has any of those who are voicing disagreement about this given thought to the fact that Kaepernick’s kneeling opened the door and has given rise to a movement that could result with more black folks moving to own more of the NFL teams?  It could. It’s the what’s next, because protest is not an end in itself, but rather a means to an end. Hopefully, those highly paid sports stars and celebrities come to recognize that there are more uses for their money than showing off. Jay-Z has been on this message for years, and he evidently not only makes music about it, but he also does it.  What a concept, take action, act in spite of fear even as you venture into the unknown.

Instead of it being about a job, it has to become about owning the jobs that employ your people; become a decision-maker within the NFL. I wonder how many of the disenfranchised and oppressed can visualize a day when people who look like the players own more than half of the teams in the league with some of their companies also supplying the support services. It is helpful to remember that integration should work both ways, we first integrated as subordinates to white ownership, now it is high time to integrate as equal owners and decision makers. We’ve got a lot of learning to do among ourselves and we can see that the road won't be easy.

Find the Points of Unity and Celebrate Our Wins
Increasingly, black celebrities and investors are by now seized upon the importance of ownership in sports and other arena, and some recognize that each small step is a move that can in some small way help the overall African American community. So, if Jay-Z is successful at opening the door for other black owners to follow, would we not celebrate that victory? My hope is that as a community we would support him for making that breakthrough even while we work for breakthroughs at the level at which we operate.

Steve Biko once said, “the most potent weapon is the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed,” and we should be more careful we are not sowing the seeds of our own destruction by fueling unwarranted divisions. 

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