By Sean Yoes, AFRO Baltimore Editor, [email protected]
“I’m not a businessman; I’m a business man!
Let me handle my business, damn”
(From “Diamonds From Sierra Leone” (the Remix)
By Kanye West, featuring Jay-Z)
Last week, Jay-Z arguably the greatest rapper of all-time, as well as a generous philanthropist from time to time, got dragged by many through the social media muck.
The “controversy” was sparked when it was announced, Jay through his company Roc Nation (a sports management entity) would advise the NFL on entertainment and the Super Bowl and perhaps engage the league on somewhat dubious issues of social justice. Afterall, this is the same league that has essentially blackballed Colin Kaepernick for taking a knee in protest of seemingly ubiquitous law enforcement assaults against Black bodies.
But, before the tumult over Jay getting in bed with NFL Commissioner Roger Goddell, and the 32 other White men who own every franchise in the league, could die down, a subsequent report by TMZ asserted Jay (born Shawn Carter) will acquire a “significant ownership interest,” in an undisclosed team. So, that would be a milestone of sorts; there has never been a Black man or any person of color who had a “significant ownership interest” in an NFL team.
But, as news of the mogul rapper’s possible NFL ownership wafted through social media, Carter stirred up the bitter gumbo of Black Twitter when he seemingly dismissed Kap (who sacrificed his NFL career for the Black Lives Matter movement) when he allegedly said, “I think we’re past kneeling…I think it’s time for action.”
As I alluded to earlier in this column, the Black-lash (including myriad memes and salty comments) against Carter has been fast and furious from various corners.
Eric Reid, currently a safety for the Carolina Panthers, who is Kap’s best friend also knelt with the former 49’er quarterback when he played with San Francisco. Reid not unexpectedly called Carter’s deal with the NFL “despicable.”
But, I think some of ya’ll got Jay, um, messed up.
The beef some have with the man born into poverty in the Marcy Projects of Brooklyn (now his net worth is about a billion dollars), brings to mind for me the 1993 Nike ad when NBA Hall of Famer Charles Barkley declared, “I am not a role model.”
“I am not paid to be a role model. I am paid to wreak havoc on the basketball court,” Barkley added in the now iconic ad. “Parents should be role models. Just because I dunk a basketball doesn’t mean I should raise your kids.” It was an incendiary message in the ears of some and people have been debating the role of actors, athletes and yes, rappers in the vital and often perilous affairs of Black people ever since.
I know three things about Jay-Z: he can rap, he has a beautiful wife, he has a lot of money. That means I know virtually nothing about him. And neither do the millions of people around the globe who have an opinion one way or another about how Shawn Carter moves through the world.
I also know he’s been listing his priorities for decades and it seems clear for Jay the bottom line has always been the bottom line. He said the following in the song, “Moment of Clarity,” on his 2003 offering, The Black Album:
“We as rappers must decide what’s most important
And I can’t help the poor if I’m one of them
So I got rich and gave back to me that’s the win, win”
Why would anybody (who has been paying attention for the last two decades) be surprised or appalled to know this uber capitalist is making a paper play with the NFL? People keep asking, why is he doing this?
Maybe what they should be asking is, why wouldn’t he?
Shawn Carter is actually only charged with making provision for a hand full of people on this earth: himself, his wife and their three children.
Although he is also known as “J-Hovah, the god MC,” Jay-Z most assuredly is not God. We should treat him accordingly.
Sean Yoes is the AFRO’s Baltimore editor and author of, Baltimore After Freddie Gray: Real Stories From One of America’s Great Imperiled Cities.