After facing some backlash for sitting during the national anthem during Sunday’s Super Bowl game, rapper Jay-Z said this week that he and his wife Beyoncé were not trying to make a political statement.
In a recent Columbia University Lecture series interview, Jay-Z indicated he and Beyoncé were not sitting as an act of protest against the U.S. national anthem. When asked if his sitting was meant to “convey a signal,” Jay-Z said, “It actually wasn’t — sorry.”
He went on to say that if he meant to convey a political message he would have simply said so from the beginning.
Jay-Z remarked that in the moment, he and Beyoncé were thinking about what singer Demi Lovato must have been thinking while performing the national anthem at the Super Bowl for the first time. Beyoncé has previously performed the national anthem at the Super Bowl and Jay-Z said the couple had just become focused on her performance.
“So we get there and we immediately jump into artist mode,” he said. “Now I’m really just looking at the show. Did the mic start? Was it too low to start?”
Jay-Z continued, “the whole time we’re sitting there, we’re talking about the performance, and then right after that, Demi comes out and we’re talking about how beautiful she looked, and how she sounds and what she’s going through, and her life — for her to be on the stage, we were so proud of her.”
The couple’s decision to sit during the anthem sparked controversy as the move appeared to resemble other national anthem protests seen throughout the NFL, as popularized by San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
Kaepernick began kneeling for the anthem as a form of protest against perceived racial injustice, including police brutality against the black community.
The kneeling protests drew criticism among many league viewers, who considered Kaepernick and other players to be acting unpatriotic and signaling disrespect towards police and members of the U.S. military. Kaepernick has since become a free agent and has struggled to continue with a career in the NFL.
Fans similarly questioned the motives of Jay-Z and Beyoncé following their decision to sit during the game. Both artists have been politically outspoken in the past.
Beyoncé participated in the 2016 Super Bowl halftime show in a performance that some considered to be particularly politically charged.
Jay-Z also recently signed a deal between his entertainment company, Roc Nation, and the NFL. As part of the deal, Roc Nation would reportedly advise on artist selections for major entertainment performances during the league’s games as well as advise on the league’s involvement in social justice causes. In particular, Roc Nation formed the Inspire Change initiative, which is focused on the NFL’s activism in areas such as police and community relations; and criminal justice reform.