Maroon 5 may have made the risky decision to headline the Super Bowl LIII halftime show, taking place in Atlanta, after artists like Cardi B and Rihanna publicly declined to perform in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. But they’re definitely not trying to answer questions about it. The NFL announced Tuesday that their annual headliner press conference was canceled and to be replaced with pre-recorded footage of the band preparing for the performance.
In the NFL’s statement announcing the switch up, they seemed to skate around the protests, stating, “as it is about music, artists will let their show do the talking.”
While the press conference has been a longstanding tradition, it hasn't been without its awkward hiccups. Last year, when asked by a reporter if he'd let his son, Silas, play in the NFL, halftime performer Justin Timberlake said he would “never let [his son] play football." He then murmured and backtracked on some of the statement adding, “My main objective is that he become a great person. If he wants to get into the arts or sports, I can fully support that and I can hopefully offer him some advice on what to do and what not to do.” Considering the groundswell of artists boycotting the halftime performance, it's likely Maroon 5 would have faced some tough questions from reporters regarding the protests, Kaepernick, and the NFL's role in the controversy surrounding the athlete's employment.
Maroon 5 has definitely been feeling the heat since they announced their performance. A change.org petition from last November requesting they drop out of the Super Bowl now has over 100,000 signatures. Maroon 5 keyboardist PJ Morton, who is black, seemed well aware of the risk of signing on to a halftime performance when talking to the Associated Press earlier this month. “This is definitely a controversial year, but it’s something I’ve wanted to do my whole life," he said. "As a musician it’s the biggest stage you could ever play.”
Guest performer Travis Scott also felt the heat of criticism after signing on to the show, responding with a veiled show of support to Kaepernick. “I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” he told Billboard. In the same breathe, he announced that he accepted the NFL's offer under the condition that they donate $500,000 to CNN journalist Vann Jones’ charitable organization, Dream Corps. Then there was the fallout over a Variety report claiming Scott reached out to Kaepernick before accepting the NFL's offer and getting his blessing, which was later disputed and led to Kaepernick retweeting Hot 97 radio host Ebro Darden's callout, which read "Kap did not approve of this bullshit! Get the fuck outta here."
Even getting one of Atlanta’s most beloved rappers, Big Boi from Outkast, to be a part of the show didn’t go as planned when he was promptly dragged in the comments.
On the same day that press conference cancelation was announced, People reported in an exclusive that the NFL, Maroon 5, and Interscope Records have partnered to donate $500,000 to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. It still didn't cause any less raising of eye brows around the cancelation.
It's looking like it could take much more than a canceled press conference to settle this storm.
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This article originally appeared on VICE US.