As you may have heard, Travis Scott and Big Boi, a member of the group Outkast, have officially joined Maroon 5 in headlining this year’s Super Bowl halftime show next month.
The decision has been met with much scrutiny after the NFL struggled for months to find another act to join Maroon 5. In fact, the amount of backlash and controversy prompted Travis to be upfront about what motivated him to take part in the show. He agreed to perform under the sole condition that the NFL partnered with him to donate $500,000 to social justice group Dream Corps.
At first, I was conflicted. But ultimately I think Travis Scott made the right decision. Now Travis has an opportunity that the artists who’ve boycotted the show don’t have. His performance can make a difference or at the very least, a statement.
In the wake of the NFL firing Colin Kaepernick and its poor treatment of the football players who kneeled in solidarity with Kaepernick to peacefully protest police brutality, a plethora of A-listers have refused to do the halftime show. For perspective, Maroon 5 was booked back in September 2018 and Scott and Big Boi weren’t announced until weeks before the upcoming Super Bowl on February 3.
That’s how difficult it’s been for the NFL to find someone. And rightfully so.
Cardi B, who collaborated with Maroon 5 on the hit “Girls Like You,” told TMZ she would consider performing, “when they hire Colin Kaepernick back.” Rihanna also turned down the opportunity to perform, citing she did not agree with the NFL’s stance on Kaepernick’s peaceful protest.
“I think it would be cool if Maroon 5 backed out of the Super Bowl like Rihanna did. I personally told my reps I wouldn’t do a Super Bowl commercial this year… Hitting the NFL with the advertisers is the only way to really hurt them.”
Jay Z, who also has strong ties to the Super Bowl with Beyoncé performing in 2013 and again with Coldplay and Bruno Mars in 2016, also expressed distaste for the NFL. In a song released in 2018, Jay rapped, “I said no to the Super Bowl, you need me, I don’t need you.” One can only guess that Mrs. Carter feels similarly, especially after she used her 2016 appearance to make a statement about police brutality and used Black Panthers imagery throughout.
I understand why Jay, Rihanna, Cardi, and Amy have decided to bow out. The NAACP has even reached out to a litany of artists, asking them to respectfully decline to participate in the halftime show. It’s important that big names have publicly rebuked the NFL. I get it. Hit them where it hurts: the advertisers.
But the Super Bowl halftime show is going to happen no matter what. And like Queen Bey in 2013 with the debut performance and release of “Formation,” the artist who performs at the Super Bowl has the opportunity to speak up, to make the performance mean something.
I highly doubt Maroon 5 is going to do it. Adam Levine is going to croon “What Lovers Do” and “Sugar” and maybe even a real throwback like “She Will Be Loved.” But is he going to use his screen time to address the political controversy around their performance? I’d be shocked.
And since I don’t know much about Big Boi, other than that he’s one half of the duo that brought us jams like “Roses” and “Hey Ya!,” I’m looking at you, Travis.
Now that you’ve stipulated to the NFL that your performance comes with a $500,00 donation to Dream Corps, the ball is in your court. You’re in a powerful position. Expectations are high. Stakes are high. People want you to make a move, to use this important performance as a moment to say something.
Are you going to? I hope you do. I’m not saying go down in a blaze of glory, cussing out the NFL or going on a Kanye-esque rant. But do something. Say something. Why stay silent? Beyoncé showed us all the power of political imagery with her 2013 performance and she didn’t even have to say anything. The ball is in your court and you know what they say: “WWBD?” What would Beyoncé do?
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Photo: Travis Scott / Instagram
Steph Osmanski is a freelance writer and social media consultant who specializes in health and wellness content. Her words have appeared in Seventeen, Life & Style, Darling Magazine, and more. She is currently pursuing an MFA in Creative Writing at Stony Brook Southampton and writing a memoir.