The Southern Roots of the Super Bowl LIII Line Up

Will you be tuning in?

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Football’s biggest night of the year Superbowl LIII (53) is just a weekend away and as we wait to see who wins the Lombardi trophy this year, music fans debate this year’s lineup for the infamous halftime show featuring Maroon 5, Gladys Knight, Chloe x Halle, & Travis Scott.

The NFL has had a tumultuous relationship with the media since blackballing Former 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick, after protesting the national anthem on September 1 st, 2016 after the team’s final preseason game. Kneeling, meant to call attention to the country’s failure to recognize and respond to the conditions of Black life in America, particularly those that end in the deaths of Black men, women, and children, cost Kaepernick a large portion of his contract with the 49ers that initially set at $126 million. He has since filed a grievance against the NFL claiming collusion to keep him out of the league. In addition to this action (and further proof that he is clearly still securing the bag), Kaepernick has surpassed his $1 million charitable donation goal and signed a deal with Nike reportedly worth millions. Nike, currently under an 8-year contract with the NFL, could offer quite the counter-argument to those working for the league claiming Kaep is “bad for business.”

Despite the controversy, Kaepernick’s message seems to be reaching the masses in predictable ways. Folks who make it their business to participate in movements for social justice, including several other NFL players, have continued to be vigilant in spreading the message that their freedom of speech should not be dictated by the rules of the game, nor should the message be overrun with made up nonsense about patriotism. However, similar to other movements during the 45th Presidential Administration, those fighting for justice are up against the mighty power and influence of money and ignorance.

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Thus, we land ourselves a week away from the Superbowl halftime show, an entertainment experience that many music fans wait through two hours of sports to enjoy for 30 minutes and talk about for days, in much the same predicament. While social media has been fairly quiet about Maroon 5 headlining the show, Travis Scott has given statements in an attempt to legitimize his participation in the show. Reports of him having a conversation with Kaepernick himself about his participation has caused a stir on the internet, particularly around whether or not the conversation took place at all, as the particulars of what, if anything, how and when the performance was discussed, & whether or not this is a strategy for more exposure for the artist, have been fairly gray. Recently, Gladys Knight was added to the list of performers and garnered a completely different response from the interwebs. Citing a long history of civil rights activism, many Knight fans are not fond of the internet groans heard across the country in regards to her committing to the performance. Scott & Knight are joined by Beyoncprotégés Chloe & Halle to round out this group of southern vocalists. Much like their music maven muva, Chloe & Halle have quietly entered this year’s controversial performance without much attention drawn, but are also two artists on the horizon, gaining much of their fame from ABC’s Black-ish spin-off, Grown-ish.

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And so the question remains as to whether or not to be one of the 100 million viewers on Feb. 3rd who tunes into this performance. In ways, it seems the NFL might be trying to make a point by gathering three Black entertainers from three different generations to perform in one of America’s Black metropolises: Atlanta, Georgia; a city rich with activist history and Black culture in addition to the anticipated performances from Quality Control, Cardi B, Ludacris, and Lil’ Jon in the days leading up to the event. Who knows, perhaps the performance will follow in the footsteps of Mama Knight’s historical contributions to Black life and Bruno Mars & Bey’s 2013 performance and carry a political message but is that enough for the masses? And what, if anything, will it do to call attention to all of the grassroots social activism concerning Black Lives that has been on-going?

Is the famed Super Bowl Halftime Show in trouble?


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  1. The Complex Politics of the NFL Super Bowl Halftime Show – The Latest In Music and Culture
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