“I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform,” Cardi B told the Associated Press. “But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him.” Last year, she told TMZ that she would not perform at the Super Bowl until Kaepernick was hired back. In the end, she went with her gut and stood by her principles, even if it meant turning down what many musicians would consider a career highlight. “When they see [how] the choices they made due to racism has affected the country, that’s when things are going to start changing. Right now, they don’t want to accept that their decision has affected the country,” she added.
Cardi B is already doing a better job talking about activism than President Donald Trump, who has made many a comment on the NFL protests. In a preview of his pre-Super Bowl interview on CBS, he said, “You can’t be kneeling during the national anthem. You have to respect our flag and our country.” What is striking about their statements is how Trump kept pivoting back to how and when protests were happening and not why they were.
Cardi B has been finding her voice politically the last few months. She has been vocal about racial inequality, healthcare, and the recent government shutdown. Her activism has been met with criticism and questioning, a great deal of which is simply due to preconceived notions as to what performers, and more importantly, women of color from working class backgrounds, are allowed to say. But she has something most politicians don’t: an ability to talk to people and not at people.
Cardi B’s comments about the Super Bowl, which are unapologetic and to the point, also starkly contrast Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine’s response. Levine recently broke his silence on the subject, saying that he and the band would like to keep the focus on the music — the subtext being that their music should speak louder than the politics of Black Lives Matter. "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," Levine told Entertainment Tonight. The Super Bowl halftime show, he said, generates an "insatiable urge to hate a little bit. He added that the band would like to "move on from it and speak through the music."
His commentary places himself, his music, and his band right in the center of the conversation, whereas Cardi B’s perspective is one that acknowledges the issue is bigger than just her role. “Most importantly, though, when I silenced all the noise and listened to myself, I made my decision based upon how I felt,” Levine said.
Kaepernick’s lawyer, Mark Geragos, is among those not buying Levine’s answer. On Friday, he spoke to Good Morning America, asking Levine to own up to what performing the halftime show represents. “If you’re going to cross this ideological or intellectual picket line, then own it, and Adam Levine certainly isn’t owning it,” said Geragos. “It’s a cop-out when you start talking about, ‘I’m not a politician; I’m just doing the music.’ Most of the musicians who have any kind of consciousness whatsoever understand what’s going on here.”
Though a number of artists turned down the opportunity in protest, the coveted spot of Super Bowl halftime performer was ultimately filled by Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Outkast’s Big Boi. Seemingly in an attempt to quell the criticism, Scott announced that he and the NFL would be donating $500,000 to the racial justice non-profit organization Dream Corps. The NFL has donated millions to the organization in the past to assuage past player protests. Big Boi has yet to comment publicly.
While the longing for an uncomplicated Super Bowl is an understandable one, not everyone has the ability to just silence the noise and ignore what is happening in favor of a lifelong dream. Cardi B had the same dream, but she still turned it down for her principles.