Jay-Z said this week that he and his pop star wife Beyonce weren’t making a political statement when they sat during the playing of the national anthem at Super Bowl LIV.
Speaking to students at Columbia University on Tuesday, Jay-Z addressed a recent controversy over a video released by TMZ showing him and his family sitting as “The Star Spangled Banner” played.
In the aftermath, many conservatives condemned the pair as ungrateful and unpatriotic, while some liberals defended them.
Viewers understood Beyonce and Jay-Z to be showing solidarity with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who in 2016, his final season in the league, started taking a knee during the anthem to protest police brutality against black Americans.
However, Jay-Z told the Columbia University crowd that what the cameras captured wasn’t a “political statement.”
“It really wasn’t. What happened was it was not premeditated at all,” he said.
Instead, the “99 Problems” rapper explained, he had merely shifted into “artist mode” once gospel singer Yolanda Adams began her performance of “America the Beautiful.”
“The whole time we’re sitting there, we’re talking about the performance,” he said. “Then right after that, Demi [Lovato] comes out and we’re talking about how beautiful she looked and how she sounds and what she’s going through in her life and to be on the stage, we’re so proud of her.”
Jay-Z, who co-produced the Super Bowl halftime show, described commiserating with his wife on what the performers must be feeling and remarking on stage and sound settings.
“I didn’t have to make a silent protest,” Jay-Z said, likely referencing his Roc Nation entertainment agency’s partnership with the National Football League for social justice-inspired events.
The NFL announced in August that Roc Nation would spearhead its Inspire Change initiative, which is aimed at “creating positive change in communities across the country.”
In a New York Times interview published last week, Jay-Z expressed support for Kaepernick while defending his Roc Nation’s partnership with the NFL.
“No one is saying he hasn’t been done wrong. He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now — because people are still dying?’” he said.
“We are two adult men who disagree on the tactic but are marching for the same cause.”
In 2017, Beyonce presented Kaepernick with Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. She thanked him for his “selfless heart and your conviction” and “personal sacrifice.”
A year earlier, Beyonce paid tribute to the Black Lives Matter movement during her Super Bowl halftime performance.
During the Super Bowl LIV halftime show on Sunday, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira appeared to slip a number of liberal political messages into their performance, including putting kids in cages.
The Kansas City Chiefs overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.