Citizenship debate: Was Rihanna socially responsible by not performing at the half time show?

Super Bowl 53 is now in the books and whether or not you enjoyed the game, which was won by the New England Patriots 13-3 over the Los Angeles Rams, is a debate for another time.

Superbowl half time show dilemma

The Super Bowl is one of the biggest single sporting events in the world and certainly in North America. It is the culminating game of the NFL season where they determine who the league’s Champion will be between the NFC and AFC – the two conferences within the NFL.

The real issue out of the big game is, and often has been in the past, the greatness of the half time show.  

This year, like every other year, one of the biggest draws to watch the Super Bowl is to see the entertainer and what kind of show they put on.

The Superbowl is known for having extremely famous acts such as: Michael Jackson, U2, Paul McCartney, The Rolling Stones, Beyonce, and Bruno Mars to name a few.   This year, however, attracting a big name star to the historically highly coveted position was more of a challenge than years gone by.

The NFL originally hoped to have Rihanna, an international singing star best known for her hits Umbrella and Love the Way you Lie, headline the event which each of the past ten years has typically attracted around 105 million viewers for the big game.  

Rihanna was the first of many celebrities to turn down the “opportunity” to perform,  She cited Colin Kaepernick as her reason why. She said that “she doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance”.

Background on Colin Kapernick

A little background about Colin Kaepernick is that he is an American activist and former NFL quarterback.  

He is best known for kneeling during the American National Anthem a few years ago. This action was filmed and he quickly had a following of other NFL players.  

This became a highly publicized and debated topic as historically players had all stood for the anthem. Colin began kneeling as he said that until racial equality and justice were present for “all Americans” he would continue to kneel.  

This stance garnered so much attention that the President of the United States Donald Trump spoke out against his actions saying “maybe he (Colin Kaepernick) should find another country that works better for him”.

The kneeling became highly debated as to whether or not he should have the right to kneel as he is employed by the San Francisco 49’ers at the time.

Reaching a larger audience

Other celebrities were not as open about reasons for not participating, but Rihanna started a list of famous performers who decided for various reasons to not perform on this hugely viewed event.  

Some of the other stars to have reportedly passed on the opportunity include André Benjamin (a.k.a. André 3000 of Outkast), Mary J. Blige, Usher, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B who has performed with Maroon 5 in the past.

This year, the halftime show will be seen by over 100 million people live. To put this in perspective of the other major sports in North America:

  • the NBA basketball finals are typically viewed by about 20 million people,
  • NHL Hockey around 5 million people, and the
  • MLB Baseball around 15 million.  

These other sports are not even close to the total viewership that the NFL receives. This number will jump dramatically after the fact when millions of people begin to watch it online through Youtube and other online streaming sources. (The day following the Superbowl, this number was already at 1.6 million people).

These are all reasons why performing at the halftime show is so appealing. This one performance can present the music of an artist to an entirely new market all at one time.

In 2017 Lady Gaga performed at the halftime of the Super Bowl and immediately after “Her albums were downloaded more than 23,000 times and her songs racked up more than 125,000 purchases on Sunday alone, according to Nielsen music”

The article goes on to say that this was a 1000% increase from the day before. With this sort of marketing potential, the appeal to perform at the Super Bowl would be extremely hard to pass up.

Discussion Questions: What would you do?

The question for us today is do you think that Rihanna did the right thing by not performing at the half time show?

  • Do you think Rihanna made a positive difference in her community and the world by deciding to not perform?
  • Was Rihanna being socially responsible by not performing at the half time show?
  • Did Rihanna miss an opportunity to have her message heard by a large group of people who otherwise may not have heard it, or did she send a louder message by not performing at all?
Citizenship Lesson: Slide 73

Watch the halftime show video:

In the end, the halftime show still took place and you can watch it here.

It was headlined by Maroon 5 with fellow artists Big Boi and Travis Scott making an appearance.

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