Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi of Outkast will take hit Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show stage on Sunday in Atlanta

By Nicole Sands
February 01, 2019 05:15 PM
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The Super Bowl halftime show is one of the biggest gigs an artist can score — but the 2019 set has been mired in controversy.

Long before Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Outkast’s Big Boi were confirmed to perform at the Pepsi Super Bowl LIII Halftime Show on Sunday, celebrities spoke out against headlining this year, urging musicians to stand in solidarity with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.

Adam Levine, Travis Scott, Big Boi to perform during Super Bowl LIII halftime on Feb. 3
| Credit: Andrew H. Walker/Getty; Jason Merritt/FilmMagic

Kaepernick, 31, is known for starting the #TakeAKnee movement in 2016, after 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. More than 113,000 people have signed a Change.org petition asking Maroon 5, Scott and Big Boi to back out of the event to support Kaepernick.

Speculation about halftime performers started brewing last fall, and stars started weighing in on the controversy when Rihanna turn down the opportunity, reportedly in support of Kaepernick. (“Yes they asked her and yes, she declined,” a source with knowledge of the situation previously told PEOPLE. “That’s certainly what everyone at the NFL believes … the word within the organization is that’s why she said no.”)

Colin Kaepernick
| Credit: Michael Zagaris/San Francisco 49ers/Getty

After the news of Rihanna‘s pass on the performance broke, many celebrities took to social media to praise her decision. Amy Schumer stepped in to applaud the Fenty Beauty mogul and suggest that it would be “cool” if Maroon 5 followed Rihanna‘s lead.

“Wouldn’t it be so cool if @adamlevine and @maroon5 stepped down too? What do you guys think?” Schumer wrote on Instagram Oct. 18, alongside a headline covering the story.

Replying, comedian Kathy Griffin wrote: “That is feminine power my friends, that is feminine power! Good for her!”

The next day, Schumer posted a longer meditation on why more people aren’t publicly supporting Kaepernick: “I wonder why more white players aren’t kneeling. Once you witness the truly deep inequality and endless racism people of color face in our country, not to mention the policy brutality and murders. Why not kneel next to your brothers? Otherwise how are you not complicit?” she wrote.

“I think it would be cool if @maroon5 backed out of [the] super bowl like @badgalriri Did,” added Schumer, who revealed she “told my reps I wouldn’t do a Super Bowl commercial this year.”

Continuing, she wrote: “I know it must sound like a privilege ass sacrifice but it’s all I got. Hitting the nfl with the advertisers is the only way to really hurt them. … Stand up for your brothers and sisters of color.”

Rihanna also received support from The Good Place star Jameela Jamil as well as Tony Award winner Anika Noni Rose.

“What a powerhouse. Rihanna’s grown into such an important voice for women, for people of colour and for body positivity,” Jamil wrote. “Turning down a $2M dollar cheque and all that publicity and the records and clothes and make up she would have sold off the back of it…is God-Level Boss.”

Rose tweeted: “I’ve loved @rihanna for some time. I love her even more today. #Superbowl #NFL.”

Cardi B also 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.”

Cardi B; Colin Kaepernick
| Credit: Theo Wargo/Getty Images; Johnny Nunez/WireImage

News broke in December that rapper Scott agreed to perform under one condition — that the NFL join him in a joint donating $500,000 to Dream Corps, a nonprofit organization that champions social justice.

Fellow rapper Meek Mill questioned why Scott would be performing.

“For what????” Mill tweeted after reports began swirling, adding: “He don’t need that he on fire already! Stay strong in this s—!” Mill said, before later adding, “And don’t get it twisted I f— wit Travis too!”

In a new interview with Entertainment Tonight, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine responded to the backlash.

“I’m not in the right profession if I can’t handle a little bit of controversy. It’s what it is. We expected it. We’d like to move on from it and speak through the music,” Levine said. “I silenced all the noise and listened to myself and made my decision based upon how I felt.”

In a January interview with PEOPLE, the band’s keyboardist PJ Morton opened up about the controversy.

Matt Flynn, Mickey Madden, James Valentine, Adam Levine, Jesse Carmichael and PJ Morton of Maroon 5
| Credit: Joe Scarnici/Getty Images for Airbnb

“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.”

The 2019 Super Bowl LIII Pepsi Halftime Show airs live from the Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3 on CBS.