Rihanna turns down Super Bowl show, backs Kaepernick

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Pop superstar Rihanna declined an offer to perform at a Super Bowl halftime show because she supported former National Football League quarterback Colin Kaepernick and his protest against racial injustice, according to media reports.

US Weekly and other reports cited an unnamed source as saying that the NFL and broadcaster CBS Corp “really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer.”

However, she declined in support of Kaepernick, the first player to kneel as the national anthem played at a game in protest over racial inequality and police brutality against black people and minorities in the United States.

“They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance,” the source told US Weekly.

Rihanna’s decision to reject the offer over a political issue follows her Instagram message earlier this month urging fans to vote in the November U.S. congressional elections. She is one of several celebrities who have taken political stances ahead of the voting.

The Super Bowl is the year’s most-watched U.S. television broadcast of the year, regularly drawing more than 100 million viewers. The game will be played on Feb. 3, 2019, in Atlanta, Georgia.

Representatives for the NFL and Rihanna did not immediately respond to requests for comment. A CBS spokeswoman directed questions to the NFL.

An unnamed source told Entertainment Tonight that the NFL approached both Rihanna and singer Pink early in its halftime show discussions, but that both women moved on when the negotiations took a long time. That source said Kaepernick did not come up in those early conversations.

Kaepernick’s decision to begin kneeling during the anthem in 2016 sparked a heated national debate, with critics including U.S. President Donald Trump calling the players unpatriotic. The NFL gave in to pressure from Trump and ordered players not to kneel on the field during the anthem.

After the protests, Kaepernick could not find a job for the 2017 season and sued the NFL, accusing owners of colluding to blackball him. He is still without a team.

Several media outlets have reported that the NFL has selected pop band Maroon 5 as the halftime performer, but no announcement has been made.

Representatives for Pink and Maroon 5 did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Reporting by Lisa Richwine in Los Angeles and Gabriella Borter in New York; editing by Bernadette Baum and Marguerita Choy