Jay-Z, the NFL and change
An interesting development took place recently in the United States – in a surprise move, rapper and businessman Jay-Z’s Roc Nation Sports will work with the league on social justice initiatives and entertainment programming, including the Super Bowl halftime show. The reactions have been mixed as some have accused him of being a sellout, while others have hailed him as a genius. The persons accusing him of selling out point to the fact that he supported Colin Kaepernick and once refused to perform during the Superbowl because Kaepernick was being excluded from the NFL due to his protests during the national anthem. While accepting his new assignment, Jay-Z has said “we have gone past kneeling”. Again, some were offended by his statement while others agreed that it was time to move on.
There is merit on both sides of the argument, but I believe there is the possibility that this move could be strategic and is in some ways a progression from the initial protest. Normally, when there is a protest there is some end goal in mind which, if achieved, diminishes the need for the same level of protest. I believe it is a smart move if it is approached from a perspective I have long espoused. Changes are made in the boardrooms and if you never have a seat at the table you become a perpetual victim of the negotiations that happen around the table. Jay-Z has seemingly gotten himself into the boardroom with the opportunity to inform, educate and dialogue with an exclusive group that does not have one black member. If he truly uses the platform to advance the cause, then it is indeed a great move. If he takes the money and runs, and everything remains the same, then it is not a good move. I do not believe his plan is to take the money and run.
Should his first move be prodding owners about re-employing Kaepernick, I think the discussion should take place at the very least. Kaepernick did his job and himself received a settlement from the NFL, so for him and others to keep kneeling would be counterproductive to me. I believe the attitude should be let us see how the NFL responds going forward and then make a judgement. Sometimes protests are necessary, but unending protests can end up being detrimental to the cause being protested. I believe the initial protest was fine with the exception of wearing pig socks to deride the police. The point was made however, and there has been some progress, although seemingly at the expense of the initial leader of the protests.
Effective protests are always followed by negotiations. In The Bahamas, we have seen a number of protests, and at the end of the day a meeting with decision-makers is requested. If the meetings bring results, the need for protests no longer exists. We have seen it happen with unions and other civic groupings. The goal is to get a seat at the table because that is where change happens. In this case, Jay-Z has gotten a seat at the table and it remains to be seen exactly what that means, but at least it is on the surface a step forward.
In Luke 16, there is an interesting story about a man who was about to be fired but he used wisdom and negotiated himself into a better position. Although it did not seem like the right thing to do, Jesus commended the man’s negotiating ability and used it as a lesson. Jesus told his disciples: “There was a rich man whose manager was accused of wasting his possessions. So, he called him in and asked him, ‘What is this I hear about you? Give an account of your management, because you cannot be manager any longer.’ The manager said to himself, ‘What shall I do now? My master is taking away my job. I’m not strong enough to dig, and I’m ashamed to beg – I know what I’ll do so that when I lose my job here, people will welcome me into their houses.’ So, he called in each one of his master’s debtors. He asked the first, ‘How much do you owe my master?’ ‘Nine hundred gallons of olive oil,’ he replied. The manager told him, ‘Take your bill, sit down quickly, and make it four hundred and fifty.’ Then he asked the second, ‘And how much do you owe?’ ‘A thousand bushels of wheat,’ he replied. He told him, ‘Take your bill and make it eight hundred.’ The master commended the dishonest manager because he had acted shrewdly. For the people of this world are shrewder in dealing with their own kind than are the people of the light. I tell you, use worldly wealth to gain friends for yourselves, so that when it is gone you will be welcomed into eternal dwellings.”
Perhaps in this case, Jay-Z acted shrewdly in dealing with NFL bosses. Time will tell but the lesson for all of us is if you have an opportunity, get a seat at the table in order to advance your cause. I am not commenting on Jay-Z as a role model or someone to be looked up to from a moral standpoint – this lesson is simply about strategic positioning to create change possibilities. I have had the opportunity to sit at the table to speak to the powers in The Bahamas as well as seats at the table of global bodies and I cherish those moments because it is impossible to influence and bring change on the outside. If you have an opportunity, take your seat and negotiate on behalf of the kingdom.
• Pastor Dave Burrows is senior pastor at Bahamas Faith Ministries International. Feel free to email comments, whether you agree or disagree, to firstname.lastname@example.org. I appreciate your input and dialogue. We become better when we discuss, examine and exchange.