Colin Kaepernick made a point Monday of publicly thanking Rihanna for her show of support. The pop star hailed Kaepernick on social media not long after posting video Sunday in which she mocked a fellow airplane passenger for asking how he could watch the Super Bowl.
Rihanna shared an artist’s rendering of the former 49ers quarterback taking a knee while wearing a football uniform and added the message, “For those of you who thought I was watchin the Super Bowl ... we beefin.”
That had Kaepernick posting a response in which he said, “I really appreciate Rihanna keepin it 100,” while adding a raised-fist emoji.
Kaepernick, who led the 49ers to Super Bowl XLVII in the 2012 season, has been out of the NFL since becoming a free agent two years ago. He is pursuing a grievance filed against the league that alleges team owners have colluded to punish him for his social activism, in particular his role as the originator of player protests of racial injustice during the nation anthem.
Rihanna reportedly turned down a few months ago an opportunity to be the featured entertainer at the Super Bowl halftime show, with a source saying that she arrived at the decision “because she supports Colin Kaepernick” and “because of the kneeling controversy.” Instead, that slot went to the band Maroon 5, members of which subsequently heard some criticism for working with a league that had no apparent use for the quarterback.
“There are plenty of people — a lot of the players, to be honest — who support Kaep and also do their job for the NFL,” Maroon 5′s PJ Morton told People last month. “I think we’re doing the same thing.”
Cardi B, the rapper who had a No. 1 hit last year with Maroon 5, said recently that she turned down a chance to perform with the band during the Super Bowl because she felt obligated to make a “sacrifice” on behalf of Kaepernick. “I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him,” she said on Friday.
Rihanna took to social media Sunday to post video of herself in an airplane, offering an unenthused expression to the camera while saying in a caption that a fellow passenger had just asked how he could “watch [the] Super Bowl on the flight.” She then posted another video clip in which she described that passenger, the top of whose head could be seen above the seats, as a “weirdo.”
Rihanna was hardly the only celebrity letting others know that she was shunning the Super Bowl in support of Kaepernick. Many of them, including the director Ava DuVernay, actor/TV personality Nick Cannon, actress Jodie Turner-Smith and singer Janelle Monáe, used the hashtag “ImWithKap,” which was trending nationally shortly before the game kicked off.
DuVernay said on Twitter on Sunday that she would not “be a spectator, viewer or supporter” of the Super Bowl, “in protest” of the NFL’s “racist treatment” of Kaepernick and “its ongoing disregard for the health + well-being of all its players.” She added, “To watch the game is to compromise my beliefs. It’s not worth it.”
Actress/writer Amber Tamblyn tweeted Sunday, “While you’re enjoying this mediocre Maroon 5 halftime please remember a football legend was blacklisted from this entire sport for merely putting his knee on the ground in protest of black people being murdered.”
On “The Wendy Williams Show” Monday, Cannon said the 13-3 defensive struggle between the Patriots and Rams “wasn’t so super — I heard, because I didn’t watch it!”
Calling the Super Bowl “the world’s biggest display of capitalism ever,” Cannon said that “people forgot the true reason why Colin was protesting.” He told the audience that “systemic oppression is one of America’s biggest problems” and claimed that Kaepernick “put $150 million on the line for his people” and “to this day is still being blackballed.”
The comedian Amy Schumer, who appeared in a 2016 Super Bowl ad for Bud Light, said in October that she would not participate in another commercial aired during the game, adding that “it would be cool” if Maroon 5 “backed out” of the Super Bowl “like [Rihanna] did.”
“The hottest thing a guy can do is get down on one knee,” Schumer said at the time on Instagram. “Not to propose but to reject the treatment of his teammates by this country. Anyone who says it’s disrespectful to our military please read up on the fact that a lot of veterans are proud of what Kaepernick is doing and fully support him.”
While she may have turned down the halftime gig, considered a huge career opportunity for recording artists because of the Super Bowl’s annually gigantic audience, Cardi B did perform in Atlanta last week at events related to the game. She addressed accusations of hypocrisy, telling the Associated Press, “I hear people saying, like, ‘Oh, y’all are saying all this stuff about the Super Bowl, but you’re doing all these parties.’ And it’s like, well, if the NFL could benefit off from us, then I’m going to benefit off y’all. Y’all make the most money off our people.”
“We got an arrogant president, and the racism right now has been reborn,” she added. “They feel mighty brave nowadays. When Obama was around, I just feel like they were praying on the day when his eight years was over. A lot of jealousy.”
Viewership for the Super Bowl on TV and streaming devices dropped this year to 100.7 million, the lowest mark for the game in a decade, with support for Kaepernick and the contest’s lack of offensive fireworks cited as possible causes. Another factor was a boycott by fans in New Orleans, who were angry that their Saints were denied a chance to square off with the Patriots in part because of a controversial no-call by officials.
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