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Travis Scott and Colin Kaepernick’s Super Bowl 2019 Controversy Explained
In mid-August of 2016, Colin Kaepernick decided to remain seated as the National Anthem played at a preseason 49ers game. No one noticed until a few weeks later, and Kaepernick explained his peaceful protest to the media, saying “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
What started with one man quietly kneeling to protest the killing of unarmed black men has become something much bigger and complex than football. Republicans have disingenuously framed the protest as something anti-American and anti-military. And though he’s no longer on an NFL roster and has been effectively banned from the NFL, Kaepernick has become something of a martyr for civil rights, having appeared on magazine covers and a controversial Nike ad about sacrifice.
As a result, Kaepernick has been an inspiring figure throughout pop and hip-hop music with the likes of Kendrick Lamar, Beyoncé, and Jay-Z referencing the former quarterback. Late last year, news emerged that Rihanna turned down the chance to play at the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show because she didn’t agree with the NFL’s stance on the kneeling controversy. Jay-Z reportedly turned down 2018’s halftime show in Minneapolis as well, slamming the league in his track “APE S**T” with Beyoncé: “I said no to the Super Bowl: you need me, I don’t need you / Every night we in the end zone, tell the NFL we in stadiums too.” Cardi B—a vocal supporter of Kaepernick—also turned down the chance to play the halftime show.
Having really run out of options, the NFL decided to go with the safest, most boring choice, hiring Maroon 5 to play the Super Bowl halftime show.
But the show, which normally features a number of big artists, was still lacking support for Maroon 5. Cardi—the likely choice to join the band on stage because of their collaboration on “Girls Like You”—had already refused to play on principle. So who else?
In late 2018, news broke that Travis Scott had agreed to play the Super Bowl Halftime Show. It was a decision that was met with intense pushback from other rappers, specifically Meek Mill, who called out Travis directly. Jay-Z and Rev. Al Sharpton reportedly also tried to talk Scott out of his decision.
Then, as the official announcement of his involvement with the NFL was confirmed, Scott defended his decision to play by saying he asked the NFL to make a $500,000 donation to Dream Corps, a non-profit organization that focuses on social justice issues.
“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” Scott said in a statement when announcing his Super Bowl Halftime Show appearance. “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. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”
Along with that, this week, Variety reported that Scott had allegedly spoken with Kaepernick before deciding to take the Halftime job:
Scott and Kaepernick had at least one phone conversation before the rapper confirmed his Super Bowl appearance, sources tell Variety. A source close to Scott said that while the two did not necessarily agree, they emerged from the conversation with mutual respect and understanding, with the rapper taking the stance that everyone makes a statement in their own way and he felt that the money going toward Dream Corps, combined with the platform provided by the Super Bowl, will do some good. The source also said that Scott would not confirm his performance until the donation was locked in.
Unfortunately, those reports were quickly disputed by Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Hot97 host Nessa Dias:
Then, Kaepernick himself retweeted Hot97 host Ebro Darden, who said “Kap did not approve this bullsh–! Get the f— outta here.”
At this point, Scott and Big Boi are scheduled to join Maroon 5 at the Super Bowl on February 3.