The National Football League needs a little help with its image; last year, nearly dozens of people declined to perform at the once-iconic but now infamous Superbowl Halftime show. Now, the league has recruited hip-hop artist Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation to consult with live music and social justice.
According to the New York Times, Roc Nation will consult on the Super Bowl halftime show, as well as the NFL’s other live music events. Roc Nation will also become involved with the league’s activism campaign, Inspire Change. This is a stark difference from Jay-Z’s views a few years ago, after he turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl in 2017 to show support of Colin Kaepernick, who was not rehired by any team in the league after he began kneeling during the national anthem to protest racial injustice and police brutality. Earlier this year, the NFL reached a multi-million dollar settlement with Kaepernick, as well as another 49ers player Eric Reid, who had filed grievances with the league.
However, the NFL continued to face backlash from artists, comedians, and fans. Rihanna declined to perform at this year’s Super Bowl halftime show, and other artists like Cardi B, Adele, and P!nk, were reportedly asked to take the stage but declined to offer solidarity with Kaepernick. Comedian Amy Schumer wrote that she would follow suit and turn down any offers for commercial jobs connected to the game, noting that “hitting the NFL with the advertisers is the only way to really hurt them.” An insider source told Variety that “nobody wants to be associated with it.”
Nonetheless, pop-rock group Maroon 5 was announced as this year’s Super Bowl halftime performers, but the band reportedly asked more than a half-dozen artists to appear as guests during their 13-minute set, and were turned down by Cardi B, Andre 3000, Mary J. Blige, Usher, and more. It was announced in January that rapper Big Boi would appear with Travis Scott, but only if the NFL joined Scott in donating $500,000 to the non-profit organization Dream corps. The three artists still faced backlash though, as activists urged them to cancel their performance.
Jay-Z told the Times that the NFL “has a great platform, and it has to be all-inclusive.” Through the partnership, Jay-Z will have a role in selecting and producing the most-watched performance in the country.
“They are willing to do some things, to make changes, that we can do some good,” he said.
The NFL hopes that this partnership with Roc Nation can help the league present itself in a better light and be a space that is welcoming to all artists.
“We don’t want people to come in and necessarily agree with us; we want people to come in and tell us what we can do better,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell told the Times. “I think that’s a core element of our relationship between the two organizations, and with Jay and I personally.”