Home Other Stuff We Like So What Do Jay Z and Iggy Azalea Owe the #ICantBreathe Movement?

So What Do Jay Z and Iggy Azalea Owe the #ICantBreathe Movement?



If you’re a frequent Tweeter/Facebooker, you’ve probably seen the photo above.

If not, it’s from last night’s Brooklyn Nets game. Jay Z posed with members of the team beforehand, setting off a social media tidal wave in the process.

In my unscientific opinion, the reaction was about 80/20, with the majority questioning why Jay couldn’t/didn’t/refused to wear an “I Can’t Breathe” shirt along with the players. The others were excited to see him showing support.

The Nets are part of a growing number of athletes showing support for protesters of the Eric Garner grand jury (in)decision. The situation begs two questions:

Why wasn’t Jay Z wearing a shirt?


Why aren’t more Black celebrities speaking out?

Let’s tackle these one at a time…

Seriously, Jay? No shirt?

This feels like hair splitting.

It’s clear Jay Z is in this picture on purpose. He’s in the middle of the group of four players. It’s not like he was there be accident or photobombing the picture.

He’s there in support of the message. As much as a picture can communicate one’s intentions, this is doing a fine job showing that Jay is on our side.

I’ll allow it.

There’s no “right” way to protest or show your support. Stratifying supporters only waters down the movement. Who does that help?

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Remember Animal Farm?

If you forgot 8th grade English, here’s a brief rundown:

Three pigs take over their farm in a revolt, aiming to establish a utopia with animals free of human rule (“Animalism”). All goes well until the pigs are at odds over the future of the farm. One pig overthrows another, and things devolve from there. Around the end, the principles of Animalism devolve into one rule:


Stay with me.

The nationwide protests of the Garner and Michael Brown grand juries are big. Thousands across the country are creating history. We have an opportunity to change police and governmental policy.

Let’s not undermine it by deciding some protesters are more equal than others.

So where are all the other Black celebs?

All that said above, I’m surprised and disappointed that more celebrities haven’t shown outward support for this cause.

Many of them, in a moment of honesty, would admit that they could have been Brown or Garner…or Bell…or Grant and so on. They come from similar neighborhoods. If not many of their fans do.

I don’t think they owe anything to the movement. Participating is a personal decision. One that could have repercussions from fans and sponsors. Their only allegiance is to self. That’s fine. They might agree with the decisions not to indict. And that’s fine.

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I selfishly wish more would use their voice to show support and inspire those who are putting their lives at risk. But if I got everything I wanted, I’d be 6’5 and on the Detroit Pistons.

Well, maybe not the Pistons this year…but still.

Bonus question: Doesn’t Iggy Azalea owe something to this movement?

I wish the loud minority (as record sales would indicate) would stop pretending they’re mad at Iggy.

If you’re unaware, some feel that the Australian rapper is, essentially, a fraud. They believe she co-opted Black culture, and is playing a part…capitalizing on the glamorous parts of Black culture without enduring any of the difficulties of actually being Black.

It’s a ridiculous argument.

No one owns hip hop culture. It is of Black culture, having started there and being nurtured in Black communities across the country. But at some point our Hip Hop Baby grew up and became a bona fide part of the zeitgeist. It’s no longer a subculture existing in America, it is America. Everyone gets to participate.

And that’s a good thing. Hip Hop’s founders shaped the culture! Calling hip hop just a Black/urban/inner-city/whatever thing minimizes its progress.

Sorry, everyone gets to play.

So the short answer is no, Iggy doesn’t owe this movement anything because you think she’s profiting off Black culture. She’s profiting off hip hop, and that’s no longer the same thing.

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That’s how I feel on the intersection between #ICantBreathe, sports, and celebrity. How about you? Does Jay Z owe us more? How about Iggy Azalea?

Hit the comments and let me know!


  1. Some Folks are Built to Lead, and Others are Built to Follow/Support.

    Do All Built-Leaders Lead? No, because there IS such a thing as Too Many Leaders, or Chiefs; and Too Many Chiefs means “Not Enough Indians” as the phrase goes. People don’t do enough Groundwork but Want More Chiefs to mask Themselves Not Doing Work.

    In a nutshell, Hov and Iggy don’t “have” to be Leaders IF they aren’t Built to BE Leaders; we Have Leaders in these Millennial and Gen Y generations. We should Let them get the chance to Lead rather than ask for or diss Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as well as ask Celebs to be such.

  2. I find both arguments to be nitpicky, the Nets wore the shirts for the picture and obviously would have to take them off for the game, Jay Z who isn’t a professional basketball player wouldve never had a reason to take off that shirt so basically you’re mad he just didn’t leave the house with one on. That’s a reach.

    As for Iggy, she can’t sit with us. Its a petty argument to say oh she can’t ride out because if she did you would still accuse her of trying to be down like Brandy.

  3. recording artists/celebrity people are still ..well…people. i don’t expect people to do something that they don’t want to do or are uncomfortable doing. so i wouldn’t know how iggy feels on the situation at all.

    with that being said, when i heard Jay Cole marched in nyc, and ferguson, i pre-ordered his new album (which drops today) and ordered his last album.

    i personally feel that jay fielded a call from lebron to get a shirt from outside, he got them and they didn’t have a size that fit him (mr. carter). or maybe he just chose not to wear it. his choice, don’t bother me none. football teams dont win games with a roster full of running backs.

  4. I think what’s getting lost in this is that by not wearing a shirt, Jay is silently acknowledging that the movement is not about him. A celebrity’s statement or co-sign doesn’t affect to the movement. If anything, the fact that this conversation is being had is a distraction to what actually matter. We’re mobilizing just fine without them.

    Additionally, Jay has done a lot behind the scenes. If people paid attention as much as they claim they do, they’d know the countless acts of activism he’s quietly done. Every celebrity doesn’t have to be like John Legend, Jesse Williams, and Jamie Foxx. I mean Kobe said nothing about Trayvon Martin, but now 2 years later, he’s all about #blacklivesmatter. So for me, I don’t expect more from Jay or any other celebrity.

  5. I may not EXPECT our athletes and entertainers to be more politically/socially active, but I sure as heck do wish they were. Reason being is that these are the ‘new’ leaders/voices that can make the biggest impact in our society. Grassroots organizing is good, but we have to understand that we did that back during Civil Rights, and the System has adapted to that kind of affront. Modern society has become more about capital than any other time in history, the system doesn’t care about values, and what’s right and wrong. They care about the bottom line ‘economics’. Back in the 60’s you had some of our most iconic figures willing to put their ‘spot’ on the line for the sake of the cause as a whole. Now we expect everyday people with limited volume of voice to bear the weight of enacting social change. If they don’t want to step up, that’s fine, but I won’t act like its not doing us as a whole a disservice. The system could care less about how we feel, because we don’t impact the bottom line.


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