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Roc Nation And NFL Announce Partnership

Source: Kevin Mazur / Getty

It’s no secret that Black folks had their doubts about rapper turned mogul Jay Z partnering with the NFL to raise awareness on social justice issues. After all, the NFL is the very organization who plotted to keep Colin Kaepernick out of the league once he began kneeling to raise awareness about police brutality in America. Partnering with them to put on concerts and sell merchandise seemed capitalistic, ineffective and ill-advised.

But because of Jay Z’s track record—his work on prison reform, his not-so-secret involvement in the Black Lives Matter movement, his advocacy for Black businesses and his lyrical content, people were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt, to wait and see how this partnership would help the community—Black folks—as opposed to just making even more money for Roc Nation and its artists.

Then we learned that the NFL and Roc Nation partnered together to launch their Inspire Change initiative that was supposed to donate money to various social justice organizations throughout the country. That sounded a little more promising, though it didn’t do much to address the structural racism issues within the league.

Still, it was something.

According to Sports Illustrated, one of the charities set to benefit from one of two $400,000 donations was the Crusher’s Club. The Crusher’s Club’s mission is to help Chicago youth “restore their lives and improve their neighborhoods.”

While the groups were hand selected and vetted through Roc Nation, it didn’t take long for the internet to discover an issue.  Apparently, the president of the Crusher’s Club, Sally Hazelgrove, a White woman, has specific ideas about how to help young Black boys restore their lives—by cutting their locs.

In a tweet that has since been deleted, Hazelgrove wrote: “And another Crusher let me cut his dreads off! It’s symbolic of change and their desire for a better life!”

The tweet is gone but folks were quick to get the screenshot.

In another deleted tweet, Hazelgrove wrote: “It’s family thing we box mentor make music & I get to cut hair He’s freaking out but looks so cute! #loveshorthair”

There are also tweets that suggest the Crusher’s Club is pro-police and encouraging children to strive to lock people up—which doesn’t align with the whole issue of mass incarceration.

“Our Jr CPD they cant wait to arrest someone! Especially hearing they can start making 70k as a cop!”

In defense of the tweet, the Crusher’s Club explained that the children were holding up badges and learning about being police for career day.

It’s not looking good, guys.

I’m sure the Crusher’s Club is doing some amazing work. And the boys and young men in their program don’t appear to have been forced to cut their hair. According to one of the boys, it was a decision he made and one that Hazelgrove executed. Still, given the messaging that went along with the haircut, we can’t be sure that these students weren’t persuaded to do this based on the rhetoric they might have been hearing from respected authority figures in the Club.

Furthermore, the suggestion that cutting locs, a deeply cultural and even spiritually significant hair style for Black people across the diaspora, is not only racially insensitive, it’s inaccurate to assume that a Black boy would have to cut his undeniably Black hair to have a “better life.” We already went through this with Steve Harvey and Dr. Steve Perry with their boys camp. It’s deeply troubling that a woman who works with Black youth would spout such anti-Black statements, for public consumption.

The whole partnership is looking increasingly terrible as the days go on. Working with the oppressors, saying we’re beyond kneeling, already rich people partnering with even more rich people to make money, and then donating funds to White-led organizations that promote anti-Blackness? As much as many of us admire Jay Z, this appears to be a misstep on his part.

You can see what other people have had to say about all of this on the following pages.


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