When does someone’s past become their past?

This is a conversation I had with a friend of a friend this weekend. We’ll call him…. David for the sake of this posting. David, a soon to be 3rd year law student, mentioned an article he recently read in the NY Post about Jay-z and how he shouldn’t be allowed to market/represent a major sports franchise given its family-friendly image. You can read the piece related to Jay-Z below:

Nets on Jay-Z track

As long as the Nets are allowing Jay-Z to call their marketing shots — what a shock that he chose black and white as the new team colors to stress, as the Nets explained, their new “urban” home — why not have him apply the full Jay-Z treatment?

Why the Brooklyn Nets when they can be the New York N——s? The cheerleaders could be the Brooklyn B—-hes or Hoes. Team logo? A 9 mm with hollow-tip shell casings strewn beneath. Wanna be Jay-Z hip? Then go all the way!

“I guess I won’t need my color TV anymore now that the Nets will be wearing black and white,’’ writes reader John Lynch.

And reader David Distefano now wonders what’s left for the Nets to choose as “their alternate third-uniform to sell during nationally televised games.”

Read more –>> HERE <<–

David gave everyone a quick run down of the article and then closed with the fact that he agreed with the author. Insert my reaction here…


Wait…. what? You don’t think Jay Z is a good fit for the Brooklyn Nets franchise…. please explain.

David and I began what I guess turned into an hour long debate about why Jay-Z wasn’t a suitable choice to represent a franchise in the NBA.

David’s Argument:

Jay z has made his entire career off of marketing and glamorizing his lifestyle as a drug dealer. Which has helped promote the self damaging affects of gangs, drugs, and everything in between. This message has led to the increase in the number of young men who have tried to follow in his footsteps to find their own rights to success. I can not support anyone who has made their claim to fame by promoting a negative message. Also, the NBA is a family oriented business. Why would they partner with someone who so clearly built his entire celebrity off of negative actions? This does not seem like a good fit to me.

VS.

My Argument:

Why is Jay Z not allowed to capitalize off of his past? Everyone else in America is allowed to use their past as a platform for success regardless of if their actions are considered positive or negative. Furthermore we have to look at the reality of where he came from – we can’t blame Jay Z for speaking his truth and having millions of people connect with his stories about selling drugs or being a womanizer. If anything it just shows that his reality is a very real and very prevalent lifestyle that many people in this country live today. There is a larger problem that needs to be addressed, the fact that so many minorities feel as though their only route to success is to resort to selling drugs or being involved in illegal activity. What systems are in place that are making them feel that way? Also – the Jay Z I know isn’t the one that sells drugs. He’s one who has made many successful business ventures, a scholarship foundation, and one who has broken the stigma of what a black man from the “hood” can accomplish in their lifetime. There are politicians and CEO’s who have all done negative things to help them get where they are today. Why is Jay Z villainized and they aren’t?

Points of clarity – I want to make it clear that I am in no way condoning the sale or use of drugs. My point is this, to my knowledge Jay doesn’t need to sell drugs anymore and hasn’t for quite some time. He seems to have left this in his distant past in an effort to create a legacy for himself and his family that will last generations after he and his wife Beyonce have left this earth. At what point do we start judging this man, and really everyone we encounter, by their current being, and not who they were in their past.

What was interesting about this argument is that David is slated to become an Assistant Prosecutor for gang related crimes within a few weeks. His words and views will hold an  unequivocal power and weight that many people may not initially realize. I would assume that it is not often that their are prosecutors of color, so for him to suggest that someone can not change, especially someone as well known as Jay Z would be a dangerous statement. And more importantly a dangerous belief. We must believe people can change in order to see their change. In the end, we kind of agreed to disagree for the night on the grounds that we will see each other again, and the battle can be continued.

What do you all think? Is it wrong for someone to capitalize off of their past, especially if their past was a negative lifestyle? When do you forget about someone’s past and take them for who they’ve become. What about people who are struggling somewhere inbetween?

What are your thoughts on this? Leave a comment and lets discuss.

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1 Comment

  1. This is a really great platform to discuss this topic, and it’s an important one too. What I really think is going on here, is that you are arguing to very different points. From what I can tell, your friend is arguing that making money off of glamorizing a negative lifestyle sends the wrong message. It seems like you are arguing that it’s unfair to judge a person based on their past. Those are two very different points. I think you’re both right.

    As far as the question you posed, I don’t think it’s ‘wrong’ for a person to capitalize off of a ‘negative’ past, as long as it is made perfectly clear that it indeed was. The problem with Jay Z, is that yes, he has changed and he is a business man who definitely does not have any need to deal drugs anymore. So, shouldn’t his music and image reflect his place in society today? I think the problem is that there is a total disconnect between the image and the man, and sadly Jay has pictured the story of drugs and womanizing as one to idolize. And listen, I hear on the reasons why so many individuals resort to that lifestyle. There often aren’t many other options. I guess my point is that if a person doesn’t openly condemn a negative lifestyle, whether or not they still currently live one, they are indirectly in support of it.

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