Last month, the NFL announced that the featured performer for the halftime show at Super Bowl LIII would be Maroon 5, a band best known for a handful of inoffensive pop/rock chart-toppers.
Reaction to the news was…muted. Many wondered why the NFL didn’t capitalize on the location of this year’s edition of the game — Mercedes Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia — to book any one of numerous musicians with ties to the city.
A brief list of musicians more fitting for Atlanta's Super Bowl than Maroon 5 pic.twitter.com/TF8oTEkADa
— Jason Kirk (@JasonKirkSBN) September 19, 2018
On Thursday, though, we got new insight into the difficult situation that the NFL put itself in by alienating Colin Kaepernick and kowtowing to racists.
US Weekly and Rolling Stone reported that Rihanna — who has more #1 singles than anyone besides Mariah Carey and The Beatles — was initially approached by the NFL to headline Super Bowl LIII, but turned down the league out of deference to Colin Kaepernick, who is still pursuing a lawsuit against the NFL for collusion to keep him out of professional football.
“The NFL and CBS really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer in Atlanta,” an unnamed source with close ties to the musician told US Weekly. “They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance.”
Kaepernick is responsible for triggering two years of activism on the sidelines before football games, at every level of the sport. His silent protest against police brutality and institutionalized racism was met with backlash from racists like Donald Trump, who tried to portray the quarterback’s decision to kneel during the national anthem as anti-military.
For two years, the league has gone out of its way to mismanage their response to the protests. Their most recent effort was met with swift condemnation from players, owners, and fans alike, and was subsequently shelved after just a few days.
This isn’t the first time the NFL has reportedly run into difficulty booking musicians as a direct result of their treatment of Kaepernick and his protests. Jay-Z was approached to headline last year’s halftime show, but the rapper turned them down, reportedly in solidarity with Kaepernick.