After Struggling to Find Super Bowl Talent, NFL Denies Claims Artists Don’t Want to Perform Post-Kaepernick

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There was a struggle within the NFL to find an artist to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show following the situation surrounding players kneeling during the anthem. Now, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the artists who are headlining “want to be a part” of the Super Bowl.

The struggle to find an artist came after the kneeling controversy — which was started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the anthem throughout the 2016 season to protest racial inequality and police brutality.

However, the NFL rounded up Maroon 5 to perform during the halftime show on Super Bowl Sunday after other artists reportedly passed on the opportunity in support of Kaepernick. According to Us Weekly, Rihanna turned down the offer to perform because she didn’t “agree with the NFL’s stance.”

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Despite the controversy, Goodell said he knows people “want to be part of” the Super Bowl.

“We have great artists performing all week here,” Goodell said. “We’re extremely pleased with the diversity, the quality and the excitement that surround our entertainers, and this is the biggest stage in the world and I know people want to be part of that.”

Goodell added:

“Just to be clear, we have close to 200 million fans. We know that segments are going to have different reactions to different things that go on in our league. But ultimately, I think people respect and admire the things we do and want to be part of it.”

However, the NFL wrote in a statement that Maroon 5 wouldn’t be participating in the news conference before the Super Bowl.

“Maroon 5 has been working hard on a Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show that will meet and exceed the standards of this event,” the league wrote. “As it is about music, the artists will let their show do the talking as they prepare to take the stage this Sunday.”

Read the full statement below:

Maroon 5 has been quiet about the Kaepernick controversy, but keyboardist PJ Morton stepped up to defend the band’s decision, according to People:

“I think there are plenty of people — a lot of the players, to be honest — who support Kap and also do their job for the NFL. I think we’re doing the same thing. We can support being against police brutality against black and brown people and be in support of being able to peacefully protest and still do our jobs. We just want to have a good time and entertain people while understanding the important issues that are at hand.”

Maroon 5, along with Interscope Records and the NFL, is donating $500,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, a nonprofit that provides mentoring programs to youth, according to People.

Frontman Adam Levine told People that playing in the Super Bowl is a “dream of our band” and thanked the NFL “for the opportunity and also to them, along with Interscope Records, for making this donation to Big Brothers Big Sisters, which will have a major impact for children across the country.”

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