Among the many mini-controversies surrounding Super Bowl LIV this past weekend, one of the most tedious was the hubbub over Jay-Z and Beyoncé sitting through the national anthem. In a public appearance today, Jay explained that despite appearances, this wasn’t a protest.
Some necessary context: Last year Jay-Z’s Roc Nation signed on to help the NFL with its live music programming and social justice initiatives. Some viewed the partnership as Jay giving the league cover for its treatment of Colin Kaepernick, the quarterback who hasn’t been able to find a job ever since he spent the 2016 season kneeling during “The Star Spangled Banner” to protest police violence against minorities. Despite his past support for Kaepernick, when the deal was announced Jay controversially argued, “We’ve moved past kneeling,” suggesting that his involvement at the executive level represented a voice in the room who would advocate for the same causes as Kaepernick while wielding real power. Kaep didn’t see it that way.
So when footage emerged of Jay, Bey, and their daughter Blue Ivy seated during Demi Lovato’s anthem performance Sunday, people immediately wondered whether this was intended as a protest, and whether Jay had changed his tune about the need for such gestures at this moment in NFL history. During an appearance at Columbia University today, Jay addressed the situation.
In video obtained by TMZ, a professor asked Jay whether he and his wife intended to “convey a signal” by sitting through the anthem. Jay’s response: “It actually wasn’t. Sorry.” He then explained that when Lovato began singing, he and Beyoncé immediately began analyzing the performance from the perspective of showbiz peers. “We immediately jumped into artist mode,” he said.
Beyoncé, who has performed at the Super Bowl multiple times, allegedly shared her thoughts about what must have been going through Lovato’s head. Jay said that as the person overseeing the entertainment, he was also considering the technical aspects of the performance: “I’m really just looking at the show. The mics start, was it too low to start?” He also suggested that there was no need for a “silent protest” because his team was “making the biggest loudest protest of all” by booking a diverse cast of artists to perform.