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Questions About Kaepernick Hover Over Jay-Z’s Deal With the N.F.L.

At the news conference, the questions didn’t let up.

One reporter compared the league’s partnership with Jay-Z, one of the most influential African-Americans in the world, to “putting a Band-Aid on a bullet wound when it seems like Colin is getting blackballed by the N.F.L.”

Jay-Z said he had spoken to Kaepernick but declined to provide details about their conversation.

Without addressing Kaepernick’s status or mentioning his name, Goodell said that player protests spurred by Kaepernick had raised awareness of social injustice and that the focus should be on work the players are doing to solve problems.

“That’s where they want the attention,” he said.

Goodell did not answer questions about whether players would be penalized if they protested during the anthem this season. A measure to force players to stand through the anthem has never been enforced, in part because of a grievance filed by the players union. But Jay-Z answered a hypothetical question about whether he would kneel during the anthem if he were an athlete.

“I think we have moved past kneeling,” he said. “I think it’s time to go into actionable items.”

And so it went, on and on.

Kaepernick’s absence on the field has created a wedge between the league and African-American fans, as well as with many members of the music industry. That wedge was so deep that the N.F.L. had trouble booking an act for this year’s Super Bowl halftime show in Atlanta.

Jay-Z turned down an offer to play, and other musicians said that, because of the league’s treatment of Kaepernick, they would not perform if asked.

Robert K. Kraft, the owner of the New England Patriots, recognized that the N.F.L.’s difficulty finding a top band to play at the Super Bowl reflected a deeper problem — the alienation many African-American football fans felt because of Kaepernick’s plight. So Kraft helped bring Jay-Z and Goodell together, and he attended their first meeting about a possible partnership in Los Angeles in January.


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