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Jay-Z says sitting during Super Bowl national anthem wasn’t a protest, just forgetfulness

By | Published on Wednesday 5 February 2020

Beyonce & Jay-Z

Jay-Z has denied that he and his wife Beyonce staged some sort of protest during the Super Bowl, after they were shown sitting during Demi Lovato’s performance of the US national anthem at last weekend’s big sporting event.

Beyond America itself, the Super Bowl seems to have gone by relatively unnoticed this year, except, presumably, by the nineteen American football fans who live outside the States. But that does not mean it was without controversy – and much of it related to Jay-Z.

The big talking point has been his apparent protest, what he might be protesting, and why he staged a protest at a show he helped to organise. Especially as the deal between the NFL and his Roc Nation company to produce the sport’s entertainment output was so controversial in itself.

The obvious assumption, of course, was that he and Beyonce were refusing to stand during the national anthem in support of Colin Kaepernick. Quaterback Kaepernick sat during ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ before playing in an American football game in 2016 in a protest against police brutality. The protest saw him pushed out of the sport, and also prompted wider protests, seeing other players kneel during the national anthem.

That Jay-Z would choose to sit during Demi Lovato’s ‘Star-Spangled’ performance at this year’s Super Bowl was an unexpected move though. And not just because he was involved with the event. When announcing his deal with the NFL last August he said that “we’re past kneeling”, adding that protests should move more actively onto bringing about change.

However, this comment, and the fact that he did the NFL deal at all, was seen by many as an unhelpful dismissal of the protests and Kaepernick himself, who has still not been able to return to the NFL as a player. So many thought that the rapper had now seen the error of his ways and decided to protest at Super Bowl 2020 anyway, despite his involvement with the event and despite his previous comments on such protests.

But no! Jay-Z has cleared everything up. Turns out he wasn’t protesting, he just forgot.

In a Q&A with students at Columbia University last night, he said, according to Billboard: “It actually wasn’t [a protest]. Sorry. It really wasn’t … It was not premeditated at all”.

Actually, he said, he and Beyonce were so wrapped up in the show, that it totally slipped their minds to stand. He explained: “So we get there, and we immediately jump into artist mode. So I’m looking at the show. ‘Did our mic start? Was it too low to start?’ … ‘Is it too many speakers on the floor?’ … So the whole time we’re sitting there and we’re talking about the performance. And then right after that, Demi comes out, and we’re talking about how beautiful she looked and how she sound[ed], and what she’s going through in her life for her to be on the stage and we’re so proud of her”.

He later added that there was no need for him to protest, because the diversity of talent he had booked to perform at the event was a big enough statement, saying: “We were making the biggest, loudest protest of all. Given the context, I didn’t have to make a silent protest”.

As well as Lovato, prior to kick-off gospel singer Yolanda Adams performed ‘America The Beautiful’. Then Jennifer Lopez and Shakira headlined the halftime show, with J Balvin and Bad Bunny as guests.