At the NFL’s Super Bowl LIII on Sunday Feb. 3, Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi performed during the famous halftime show. Although it is typically seen as an honor to receive this opportunity, this year many celebrities turned down the offer, standing in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Whether or not the musicians should have agreed to perform is a pointless argument, but they need to recognize that with their fame comes the ability to make an impactful political statement. Whatever they believe, famous artists should use their platform to support their personal views.
In 2016, Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustices in America. Other NFL players joined in this movement, upsetting right-wing critics, including President Donald Trump. Some viewers said they found Kaepernick’s silent protest disrespectful to the nation and urged Americans to boycott the NFL altogether.
Although the NFL originally supported their players, they soon switched sides, terminating Kaepernick’s contract with the San Francisco 49ers and allegedly disallowed any other team from drafting him due the controversy he created. In May 2018, the NFL also ruled that if a player on the sidelines did not stand for the National Anthem, they would be fined, according to Vox.
The new regulation was stalled after left-wing commentators argued that it would suppress players’ First Amendment rights, which protect Americans’ freedom of speech, press and assembly. Kaepernick, however, currently remains barred from the NFL.
Regardless of whether or not Kaepernick’s political views and actions were valuable to the national discourse, every American has the right to protest.
As a major franchise of a nation that proudly promotes its First Amendment rights, the NFL is infringing on Kaepernick’s freedom to protest just because his sentiments do not align with the organization’s views. His actions, though disrespectful to some, did not harm anyone and should therefore be allowed.
Kaepernick and celebrities in support of his actions are utilizing their fame to raise awareness for the serious threat of police brutality and racism in America. Among others, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Cardi B supported Kaepernick in striving for an equal America by protesting the Super Bowl halftime performance, according to Deadline.
Singer Cardi B declined the offer to perform with Maroon 5 for the song “Girls Like You” in support of Kaepernick, although she did appear in a Pepsi commercial during the airing of the Super Bowl.
“[Colin Kaepernick’s] a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him,” Cardi B said, according to Deadline.
Maroon 5 received some backlash for performing in the Super Bowl rather than supporting Kaepernick and protesting the NFL. Lead singer Adam Levine spoke on the issue to Entertainment Tonight.
“I’m not a public speaker,” Levine said. “I do speak, but it’s through the music … we are going to do what we keep on doing, hopefully without becoming politicians.”
Singers Travis Scott and Gladys Knight, who performed the National Anthem, were ridiculed for participating in Super Bowl performances as well, according to Vox. Knight defended her choice in an interview with E! News.
“It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate when the distinctive senses of the National Anthem and fighting for justice should each stand alone,” Knight said.
While Knight understands how her decision can seem controversial, celebrities like Maroon 5 appear to disregard the political power that their fame comes with. In doing so, they fail to positively influence the political climate in America.
It is clear that Kaepernick’s act of silent protest raised awareness for injustice in America and encouraged many other celebrities to continue the movement. Celebrities have powerful voices in the media and they should utilize their actions in strategic ways to support what they believe is right.