Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi are set to perform during the Pepsi Halftime Show this year
Cardi B says she’s one of the artists who was offered a performance spot at the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show, but she turned it down to “stand behind” former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
In an interview with the Associated Press on Friday, the “I Like It” rapper, 26, revealed that she declined because of the way Kaepernick “stood up” for minorities.
It wasn’t an easy decision for Cardi, who said she and husband Offset had “mixed feelings.”
“My husband, he loves football. His kids play football. It’s really hard for him… He really wants to go to the Super Bowl, but he can’t go to the Super Bowl, because he’s got to stand for something,” Cardi told the AP. “You have to sacrifice that. I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him.”
Kaepernick, 31, started the #TakeAKnee movement in 2016, when he declined to stand for the national anthem at games in protest of police brutality and the racial injustices faced by people of color in America.
While the silent act of protest quickly spread to other NFL teams, it also generated substantial backlash and ignited a politic firestorm.
In March 2017, the quarterback opted out of his contract with the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick hasn’t been hired by another team since and, in an ongoing lawsuit, is suing the NFL for colluding to keep him unsigned because of his politics. An arbitrator recently threw out the NFL’s request to dismiss the case.
Speaking with reporters at Michael Rubin’s Fanatics Super Bowl Party on Saturday, Cardi addressed the NFL directly, saying, “You guys should sympathize and you guys should understand why this man took a kneel and I feel like they should make a change.”
“You have a lot of colored people that work for you guys and make you guys a lot of money and just as a human being you should have sympathy,” she continued, “and you should take action on what’s going on in this country to minorities.”
Like Cardi, many fans have opted to boycott the Super Bowl and the NFL itself in support of Kaepernick and other players who have been criticized or penalized for taking a knee. Celebrities like Amy Schumer have turned Super Bowl ads down, while a source told PEOPLE that Rihanna walked away from a halftime show offer.
But Cardi will still appear on the Super Bowl in some way. She’s starring in a new Pepsi Super Bowl commercial alongside Steve Carell and Lil Jon. She’ll also hit the stage with Bruno Mars during the Bud Light Super Bowl Music Fest on Saturday night in Atlanta.
She stood by her decision to participate in both those Super Bowl-related events, explaining to the AP where she drew the line.
“I hear people saying like, ‘Oh, y’all are saying all this stuff about the Super Bowl, but you’re doing all these parties.’ And it’s like, well, if the NFL could benefit off from us, then I’m going to benefit off y’all,’ ” Cardi told the AP. “Y’all make the most money off our people. Why am I not going to take advantage of y’all and take money from y’all too? Because of y’all, we are getting these parties. Okay, thank you.”
Though Cardi won’t be performing in the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show, Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi will be. Gladys Knight will also sing the national anthem.
“No one thought about it more than I did,” he said. “No one put more thought and love into this than I did.”
He added that the feelings and voices of those who support Kaepernick will not be neglected. “They will be [heard] — that’s all I want to say because I don’t want to spoil anything,” Levine explained. “I like to think that people know where I stand as a human being after two decades doing this. I’m not a speaker. I’m not a public speaker. I do speak, but it’s through the music.”
In a January interview with PEOPLE, the band’s keyboardist PJ Morton opened up about the controversy.
“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,” Morton said. “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.”
He added: “There was a lot to go into that decision.”
Meanwhile, Cardi — who has been an outspoken critic of President Donald Trump — told the AP she hopes Kaepernick’s protests will create positive change.
“We got an arrogant president, and the racism right now has been reborn,” she told the AP. “They feel mighty brave nowadays. When Obama was around, I just feel like they were praying on the day when his eight years was over. A lot of jealousy.”
“When they see [how] the choices they made due to racism has affected the country, that’s when things are going to start changing,” she added. “Right now, they don’t want to accept that their decision has affected the country.”
Maroon 5’s 2019 Super Bowl LIII Pepsi Halftime Show airs Sunday on CBS.
• With reporting by ADAM CARLSON