The Super Bowl, America’s most anticipated and exhilarating sporting event of the year is rapidly approaching. It is also one of music’s most anticipated and exciting events of the year. Everyone waits to see who will headline the halftime show, just as everyone waits to see what two teams will face off for the Lombardi Trophy. Being asked to perform for the Super Bowl is one of music’s greatest honors. Such a request is symbolic of “making it” as a music artist. Being asked to perform at the Super Bowl carries a certain level of prestige. Some of the greatest entertainers of all time have graced that stage. Michael Jackson, Madonna, and Prince have all performed during Super Bowl halftime. It would seem that any and every artist would jump at the opportunity to perform for the Super Bowl. Right?
“I said no to the Super Bowl…You need me; I don’t need you.”
Perhaps before 2016, any artist would have jumped at the opportunity to perform at the Super Bowl. However, things have changed. Ever since the NFL blackballed former San Fransico 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick for protesting racial injustices, there has a been a growing trend amongst the hip-hop community to “say no to the Super Bowl.” Hip-hop mogul Jay-Z reportedly declined the invitation to perform during Super Bowl LII last year. He confirmed the story this summer in the hit Apes**t. In that song, he stated: “I said no to the Super Bowl/You need me, I don’t need you/Every night we in the end zone/Tell the NFL we in stadiums too.” In the video, he had men kneel signaling to everyone that he declined the offer in support of Kaepernick.
This year’s Super Bowl halftime performance was met with the same trend. Various artist including Rihanna and Cardi B reportedly declined the invitation to perform. Accordingly, declining the invitation to perform at the Super Bowl has become a showing of solidarity with Kaepernick. However, is saying no the Super Bowl the only way to show support for Colin Kaepernick and the cause he sacrificed his career for? Apparently, some think so given the reaction to Travis Scott and Big Boi agreeing to perform in this year’s halftime show. The rappers have been called sellouts for their willingness to perform for the league that is continuing to blackball Kaepernick. However, when all things are considered surrounding their agreements to perform labeling them as sellouts is an incorrect assessment.
It is Foolish to Call Big Boi and Travis Scott Sellouts
Before this question can be answered, it is important to understand some of the context surrounding this year’s Super Bowl halftime performance. Super Bowl LIII is going to take place at the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, Georgia. Atlanta is and has been a hotbed for hip-hop for the last 20 plus years. Given this prime location, musicians and fans alike expected the halftime show to be a who’s who of Atlanta hip-hop royalty.
Unfortunately, those expectations were crushed when the NFL announced that the Calfornia native pop group Maroon 5 would be Super Bowl LIII’s headlining act. First and foremost, Maroon 5 is a deserving act. However, fans were rightfully outraged as they could not understand how the NFL could overlook all of the musical talents that have come out of Atlanta. Therefore, fans were outraged that artists such as Usher, Ludacris, Jermaine Dupri, and a host of other Atlanta artists were snubbed for the halftime show.
After the outrage regarding the lack of Atlanta artists, it seems that they tried to make it right by asking Big Boi to join the show. Big Bio is an Atlanta native and is one half of the legendary group Outkast. Once Big Boi accepted he became the subject of unfounded criticism. He accepted the opportunity to perform at the same Super Bowl that everyone was initially upset had no Atlanta representation. Then all of a sudden everyone was upset with him for accepting the bid.
Big Boi was immediately regarded as a sellout for accepting the very opportunity that everyone was upset was not given to an Atlanta artist. In what world does that make sense? It cannot be both ways. One cannot be mad that no Atlanta artists were initially represented and then be mad when an Atlanta artist takes the opportunity to represent the city. Perhaps that is the very reason Big Boi decided to perform, to represent his hometown and all of the musical greatness that has hailed from Atlanta.
There is More Than One Way to Show Support
How can someone who garnered a donation to a social justice cause in exchange for their performance be deemed a sellout? Before Travis Scott finalized his agreement to perform, he made the NFL agree to donate money to a social justice cause. Specifically, he made the NFL agree to match his $500,000 donation to Dream Corp. This donation is proof that “saying no to the Super Bowl” is not the only way an artist can show their support for social causes.
Opting out of performing for the Super Bowl is a great way to show support for Colin Kaepernick and the causes he sacrificed his career for. It is nice to see some members of the hip-hop community come together and refuse to do the Super Bowl performance as a sign of solidarity with Kaepernick. However, that does not mean that is the only way to show support. Travis Scott supported social justice issues with his donation. Big Boi is representing Atlanta for all those who wanted to see Atlanta represented on the stage. With all things considered Travis Scott’s and Big Boi’s willingness to perform doesn’t make them a sellout.
Most importantly, you have no right to call anyone a sellout if you watch the Super Bowl or have watched one single second of NFL football since Kaepernick has been blackballed.