On Sunday, fans lit up with excitement after Rihanna took to social media to announce that she would be headlining the 2023 Super Bowl LVII Halftime show.
The Bajan beauty teased the big news with a picture of her hand clutching a football. Hours later, the NFL reposted the same image to their Twitter account, confirming the huge announcement.
While some fans celebrated the forthcoming performance, a slew of internet users slammed the star for doubling back on her solidarity with former NFL player Colin Kaepernick. In 2020, the Fenty Beauty founder turned down the opportunity to perform the Halftime Show because she wasn’t happy with the way the league treated Kaepernick following his suspension in 2016 for kneeling during the national anthem.
“I couldn’t dare do that,” she told Vogue in 2019. “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.”
Twitter lit up with a ton of discourse about the move following the announcement. One user on the platform asked: “A few years ago, Rihanna turned down the Super Bowl halftime show in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and b/c she said she “couldn’t be a sellout.” But today she’s proudly announcing she’ll headline this year’s show. Has something changed at the NFL that I haven’t heard about?”
While another person commented: “It doesn’t matter how many black artists they book in that halftime slot, it will never make up for what the NFL did to @Kaepernick7 I’m surprised of all artists @Rihanna agreed to this.”
A third Twitter user also wondered what caused the elusive star to backtrack on her decision, given the NFL’s “repeated silencing of protest against police brutality,” and racism in recent months.
Back in February, former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores filed a class action lawsuit against the NFL, accusing the organization of having discriminatory hiring practices and of being racially segregated “like a plantation.”
In the lawsuit, Flores addressed the glaring equity gap between White and Black ownership of the league. “32 owners — none of whom are Black — profit substantially from the labor of NFL players, 70% of whom are Black,” the suit stated.
In addition to the allegations of systemic racism, Flores also alleged that Dolphins owner Stephen Ross offered him $100,000 per loss to deliberately lose games to secure a higher draft pick.
With Rihanna’s meteoric rise from music to entrepreneurship over the years, many fans felt as though she would be against the NFL’s blatant disrespect of Black players and ownership within the league. A few fans wondered if the star’s change of heart had anything to do with money.
“#Rihanna doing the halftime show is weird since she previously turned them down in solidarity to Colin Kaepernick in 2019. #NFL must’ve backed up a giant dump trunk full of cash to make her change her mind I guess,” a user named @JohnCTuttle1 wrote following the announcement.
Rihanna’s upcoming halftime show appearance will be the first time fans will get to see her perform since her critically acclaimed Anti World Tour in 2016. A few sources believe the singer will use the platform to tease new music or her next album. Additionally, two other stars are in talks to join the Barbados native on stage during the show, but the news has not been confirmed, according to TMZ.
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