Amy Schumer stated in an Instagram post this weekend that she refused to do any Super Bowl commercials this year. She'll be doing so in support of Colin Kaepernick, the former 49ers quarterback who is currently a free agent. Kaepernick's lack of employment is believed to be connected to his protests during NFL games. Rihanna reportedly also declined to participate in the Super Bowl for similar reasons. (There have been conflicting reports regarding Rihanna's negotiations — one source told Entertainment Tonight that Rihanna passed because negotiations took too long.) In February of this year, Cardi B told TMZ that she wouldn't perform at the Super Bowl "until they hire Kaepernick back." In her post, Schumer called upon band Maroon 5, who is rumored to be the 2019 Super Bowl halftime guest, to also boycott the event. That's Schumer, Cardi, and Rihanna. If three's a trend, then celebrities are officially backing away from the Super Bowl, which is one of the entertainment industry's biggest moneymakers.
Kaepernick has been a free agent since early 2017, when he opted out of his contract with the 49ers. His job-free status has been a source of controversy, as many believe it is connected to his now-famous kneeling during the Star-Spangled Banner at NFL games. In late 2017, Kaepernick accused the NFL of colluding to keep him unemployed via official grievance. The NFL sought to get the case dismissed, but to no avail. After months of collecting research, an arbitrator hired by the league and the Hired Players Association rejected the request, permitting the case to move to a full trial. Kaepernick's case against the organization may make it to trial before the end of the year, per The New York Times. He is seeking compensatory damages for the time he has spent virtually unemployed.
Meanwhile, the NFL has tightened rules regarding the national anthem. In May, the organization rolled out a new policy regarding the anthem: Players would be fined if they did not "stand and show respect for the flag and the Anthem." If players wished to kneel during the anthem, the policy states, they can stay in the locker room while the anthem is performed. This, while seemingly an effort to keep things "civil," kept things "quiet."
Which is all to say that the 2019 Super Bowl has a lot resting on it. The 2018 game saw no protests, but it did enjoy its own share of controversy. Justin Timberlake performed; his first time there since his 2004 performance with Janet Jackson. Though the advertisements were surprisingly apolitical, the show seemed to be hanging on a political thread; it was only a matter of time before something ruptured. (To top it off, viewership was down.)
The 2019 Super Bowl will likely arrive on the heels of Kaepernick's trial. It will also happen months after the 2018 midterms. As the television event that is often the highest-viewed in America in a given year, the Super Bowl's stakes are massive. Advertisers spend millions of dollars for mere seconds during the broadcast. Performers (like Schumer) stand to make up to $2 million participating in those spots. Companies make even more from these advertisements. That's why Schumer's willingness to speak out is important. Refusing to perform the halftime show is one thing, but refusing to participate in a commercial? That's a large amount of lost income. Last year's commercials featured David Harbour, Rebel Wilson, Cardi B (yup!), Morgan Freeman, Peter Dinklage, and Tiffany Haddish, to name a few.
Representation for the NFL and Rihanna did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
If celebrities fell back this year — Maroon 5 is not yet confirmed as the performer — then the NFL might have to pay attention.