When Beyoncé and Jay-Z were seen sitting during Demi Lovato’s rendition of the national anthem at Sunday’s Super Bowl ceremony, the move was widely considered a moment of silent protest. It was a gesture that Colin Kaepernick began in the NFL years ago, and has continued to have resonance across the league.
Now, though, Jay-Z has clarified that the couple’s decision to sit during the anthem wasn’t actually meant to be a political act, even though it was interpreted that way.
During an appearance at Columbia University on Tuesday, the rapper was asked whether their decision to sit was meant to be political. “It actually wasn’t,” Jay-Z said, per a TMZ video.
He said that both he and Beyoncé immediately jumped into artist mode. Beyoncé apparently expressed sympathy for Demi Lovato, understanding how much pressure it was to sing the national anthem. Jay-Z’s production company Roc Nation is producing all
Super Bowl entertainment, so his mind was on the halftime show.
“I’m really just looking at the show. The mics start. Was it too low to start?” he said.
The rapper also added that there was no need for a silent protest, as he believed they were “making the biggest loudest protest of all” by hiring a diverse slate of performers for the show. That diverse line-up included Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, the first Latin women to ever co-headline a Super Bowl halftime show, for which they earned wildly positive reviews online.
When Jay-Z first signed a deal with the NFL to produce their entertainment, he defended the decision by saying that Kaepernick’s protest movement had already been a success. “We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success,” the rapper’s statement said. “This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?'”
While Jay-Z may believe that attention has already been raised, Kaepernick still doesn’t have a contract in the NFL, and many have argued that his position as a controversial figure is one of the reasons why.
Jay-Z may truly believe that his move to partner with the NFL will help make them more aware of their social position, but the deal is also incredibly profitable for him. He wasn’t making a silent protest, but we’ve yet to see whether he’ll be a voice for change.