If there was ever any doubt, now there isn’t: Rihanna turned down the Super Bowl halftime performance out of solidarity for Colin Kaepernick and what he stands for. Though rumors that she had rejected the gig have been swirling for quite some time now, this is the first time the singer has directly addressed the issue. And, as you’ll see, she cleared up any confusion.
In a telling new interview with Vogue, Rihanna was asked whether she had been offered the halftime show for Super Bowl 2019, and whether Colin Kaepernick had anything to do with her rejection. “Absolutely,” she confirmed. “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.”
Rihanna also didn’t shy away from one of Kaepernick’s biggest critics: Donald Trump. Nor did she mince her words. In discussing Trump’s response to the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Rihanna noted, “The most mentally ill human being in America right now seems to be the president.”
Clearly, Rihanna isn’t afraid to speak her mind on the subject of something she believes in. And where Kaepernick is concerned, it makes sense — based on what she said — that she wouldn’t perform at the Super Bowl halftime show if it meant marginalizing Kaepernick’s movement in any way.
The first NFL player to protest police brutality and social inequality by taking a knee during the national anthem in the 2016 season, Kaepernick has been on the receiving end of widespread vitriol from conservative fans, politicians and pundits since that time. In February of this year, he settled a lawsuit with the NFL over claims he had been blacklisted to prevent him from signing with any teams once he became a free agent.
Over time, the NFL has tried to repair its resulting image problem. They’ve hired Jay-Z’s Roc Nation to “amplify the league’s social justice efforts,” according to a press release. As part of that agreement, Jay-Z is responsible for helping to secure a diverse cross-section of artists for major NFL performances — like the Super Bowl halftime show. This year, his first with the organization, he signed Jennifer Lopez and Shakira.
However, the NFL’s image issue is far from over. Reactions to Jay-Z’s new role have been mixed. Critics of the collaboration feel as though the NFL’s social justice efforts, which Jay-Z was brought onboard to help with, should include Kaepernick. And with a global superstar like Rihanna coming out with such a strong stance against the organization, their publicity problems will likely get worse long before they get better.