Several popular acts have declared or suggested that they won’t perform at halftime, as long as Kaepernick is unable to latch on with an NFL team. The former 49ers quarterback has been a free agent since March 2017, and he is pursuing a grievance against the league that alleges team owners have conspired to punish him for his social activism, in particular his protests of social injustice during the national anthem.
Rihanna was reportedly first offered the halftime slot, normally a coveted gig because of the opportunity to perform before a TV audience of more than 100 million, but turned it down out of sympathy for Kaepernick and NFL players still protesting during the anthem. Maroon 5 subsequently signed on but then had trouble lining up accompanying acts, per reports, with Cardi B described by a representative (via Rolling Stone) as “not particularly interested in participating because of how she feels about Colin Kaepernick and the whole movement.”
Another rising hip-hop star, Travis Scott, agreed to join Maroon 5 onstage at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, but only after Jay-Z reportedly tried to talk him out of it. A petition at Change.org, calling on Maroon 5 to “stand on the right side of history” or “be remembered for choosing to side with the NFL over its players,” has attracted more than 111,000 signatures.
Thus the chart-topping band could have been expected to field a question or two about its members’ opinions on Kaepernick and the issue of player protests, if it had participated in a pre-Super Bowl news conference, as has been done in recent years by the likes of Justin Timberlake, Coldplay, Lady Gaga and Beyoncé. Instead, according to the league, a “cross-platform rollout of behind-the-scenes footage and content from each of the halftime performers,” who also include Big Boi of the hip-hop duo Outkast, will continue up to the game.
Maroon 5 “has been working hard” on a halftime show “that will meet and exceed the standards of the event,” the NFL said, adding, “As it is about music, the artists will let their show do the talking as they prepare to take the stage this Sunday . . . Instead of hosting a press conference, this social and digital rollout will continue through Sunday across our owned and operated media assets as well as through the platforms of the artists.”
The halftime acts have made a point of making major donations to community-minded causes. Maroon 5, along with the NFL and Interscope Records, gave $500,000 this week to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, while Scott previously partnered with the league to give the same amount to Van Jones’s Dream Corps.
“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in. I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation,” Scott said in a statement (via E! News). “I am proud to support Dream Corps. and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”
“Playing the Super Bowl has been a dream of our band for a long time,” Maroon 5′s Adam Levine said in a statement (via E! News). “We thank the NFL for the opportunity and also to them, along with Interscope Records, for making this donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which will have a major impact for children across the country.”
Earlier this month, the band’s keyboardist, PJ Morton, told People magazine, “There are plenty of people — a lot of the players, to be honest — who support Kap and also do their job for the NFL. I think we’re doing the same thing.”
“We can support being against police brutality against black and brown people and be in support of being able to peacefully protest and still do our jobs,” he continued. “We just want to have a good time and entertain people while understanding the important issues that are at hand.”
Atlanta-based recording artist/producer Jermaine Dupri, who was hired to stage concerts all this week in a park near the stadium where the Super Bowl will take place, said recently that he was called a “sellout” while meeting with families of people who had died as a result of police brutality.
“If we were to completely turn our head to what’s happening Super Bowl weekend and have nothing to do with it, and stand with Kaepernick and completely boycott, what about our love and our craft that we care so much about?” Dupri said (via the AP). “It’s a rough situation, because you want to support both sides.”
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