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NFL, Jay-Z plan 'Inspire Change' apparel line for 2019 season

Thomas Barrabi

The NFL and Shawn “Jay Z” Carter are set to release a line of “Inspire Change” apparel as part of the music mogul’s deal to spearhead entertainment and social justice initiatives for the league.

The “Inspire Change” apparel line is designed by music artists participating in the venture, with all proceeds from sales tabbed to support organizations dedicated to education, economic empowerment, community relations and criminal justice reform, the NFL said in a press release. Items will go on sale during the 2019 season, which begins on Sept. 5.

The launch will unfold alongside an initiative called “Songs of the Season,” featuring original music that will roll out during game broadcasts. Proceeds from the songs, which will be live on music streaming platforms, will also support charitable ventures.

To kick off the campaign, artists Meek Mill, Meghan Trainor and Rapsody will perform a free concert at the NFL Kickoff Experience in Chicago's Grant Park. Part of the Sept. 5th concert will be seen live on TV during the pre-game for "Thursday Night Football" on NBC and the NFL Network before the Chicago Bears face off against the Green Bay Packers.

Earlier this month, the NFL announced a long-term deal with Carter and his company, Roc Nation. The firm is set to produce the NFL’s major entertainment events, including the Super Bowl halftime show, as well as assist in social outreach efforts.

The partnership drew a mixed reaction on social media, with prominent critics, including Carolina Panthers' safety Eric Reid, ripping both parties for failing to address the continued unemployment of Colin Kaepernick. A former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, Kaepernick hasn’t played in the NFL since 2016, when he became the first NFL player to protest racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.

"We forget that Colin's whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase," Carter said at a press conference earlier this month. "There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, 'I hear you.' What do we do next?”

Other veteran NFL insiders have raised questions about potential conflicts of interest for Roc Nation, which also has a player representation arm that negotiates deals on behalf of several players, including New York Giants star Saquon Barkley.

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