Yesterday, news broke that Travis Scott had been tabbed to perform at the 2019 Super Bowl halftime show alongside Maroon 5. But within hours it was reported that no less an authority than Jay-Z was trying to convince Travis Scott to cancel said performance. While nothing had been officially announced, Travis’ selection would have broken the NFL’s months-long slog which included rejections from such notable artists as Rihanna and Jay himself and renegotiated contracts with Cardi B.
Meanwhile, on Travis’ side of the deal, the selection could have capped a damn near historical year for the young Houston rapper. He’d become a father, released the critically acclaimed and ridiculously successful Astroworld over the summer, wrapped the first leg of a sold-out arena tour, organized and headlined his own music festival in his hometown, and been recognized by the city of Houston with his own Astroworld Day. Forget a feather in his cap; the Super Bowl selection would have completed an entirely different sort of hat trick, solidifying him as not just one of rap’s biggest stars but one of music’s as well. So, why would Jay-Z step in and try to prevent the young, up-and-coming entertainer from ascending to that coveted level?
The answer goes back to 2016, when the San Francisco 49ers’ then-quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, refused to stand for the presentation of the national anthem during a preseason game as a protest against police brutality. In the two years prior, over a dozen highly-publicized cases had dominated the news cycle in which police officers had killed Black citizens, in many cases on camera, without facing repercussions or even being charged with misconduct, despite evidence of improper actions taken by officers, both in the moment and as a pattern of abuses which had gone unaddressed for years previous.
Kaepernick’s protest drew national attention as well. When he explained his reasoning for refusing to stand (and later switched to kneeling as a show of respect for veterans and enlisted service members), he incited a widespread backlash from NFL fans, including Donald Trump, for his outspokenness. His activism was cited by a lawsuit Kaepernick filed against the NFL as a major reason that teams refused to offer him a contract the next season after he opted out of his contract with the 49ers. He contends that the league has colluded to prevent him from playing in retaliation for the negative publicity his protests brought during the 2016 season and the resulting, league-wide protests from other players in the 2017 season.