Justin Timberlake performed during the Super Bowl LII halftime show, but only after Rihanna turned down the NFL’s offer. It was widely rumored that Rihanna rebuffed the NFL as a show of solidarity to former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
On Wednesday, Rihanna confirmed that was the case.
In an interview with Abby Aguirre of Vogue, Rihanna said she didn’t want to “be a sellout” or an “enabler,” so she turned down the NFL.
I ask Rihanna if we can discuss politics. “How deep you wanna get?” she says. “However deep you’re willing to go,” I say. She signals that I may proceed, and I ask if it’s true that she turned down the Super Bowl halftime show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. “Absolutely,” she says. “I couldn’t dare do that. For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”
Kaepernick, 31, last played in the NFL in 2016. He protested racial injustice in the United States that season, taking a knee during the national anthem. That decision drew plenty of criticism, particularly from President Donald Trump. Kaepernick hit free agency that offseason, went unsigned and hasn’t played in the NFL since. Kaepernick has made it clear he would like to return to the NFL.
Rihanna’s comment suggests she’s still opposed to working with the NFL. That wasn’t the case for Jay-Z, who also reportedly turned down the Super Bowl LII halftime show in support of Kaepernick.
In August, Jay-Z entered into a partnership with the NFL focused on entertainment and social justice. The decision drew criticism from Carolina Panthers safety Eric Reid, who accused Jay-Z of parroting NFL talking points when speaking about Kaepernick.
Jay-Z’s partnership with the NFL may have opened the door for him to headline a Super Bowl halftime show in the future. If that happens, don’t expect Rihanna to join that performance unless the NFL has mended its relationship with Kaepernick.