By Grace Dobush
October 19, 2018

Maroon 5 is headlining next year’s Super Bowl only because Rihanna turned the gig down out of support for Colin Kaepernick, US Weekly reports.

An insider told the magazine: “The NFL and CBS really wanted Rihanna to be next year’s performer in Atlanta. They offered it to her, but she said no because of the kneeling controversy. She doesn’t agree with the NFL’s stance.”

In 2016, Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem before his NFL games to protest recent police killings of African-Americans, social inequality, and racism, and other athletes followed his lead. That led to heated debates about free speech and protest within the world of sports, and Kaepernick went unsigned for the 2017 season, filing a grievance against the NFL that remains unresolved. He inspired a movement and became the face of Nike’s 30th anniversary Just Do It campaign.

Rihanna is one of the world’s most beloved musicians, but she’s also a wildly successful entrepreneur, making Fortune’s 40 Under 40 list this year for the first time. Her cosmetics line, Fenty Beauty, reportedly pulled in $100 million in its first 40 days, thanks to the wide array of deeper shades available, a strategy other cosmetics companies have been quick to copy.

After Rihanna turned down the offer to headline at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium on Feb. 4, 2019, the NFL extended it to Maroon 5, and the pop-rock group “gleefully” accepted. US Weekly says Cardi B may turn up as a special guest during their set to perform on the track “Girls Like You.”

The Rihanna news might answer some questions for people confused as to why the NFL would ask a pop group to play in the Super Bowl in Atlanta, a city with a rich hip hop history. When reports of Maroon 5’s gig surfaced last month, Twitter users were quick to clap back:

Now that the reason for Rihanna’s absence has been made public, Maroon 5 are facing pressure to turn down the show as well. “[W]ouldn’t it be so cool if @adamlevine and @maroon5 stepped down too?” comedian Amy Schumer wrote on Instagram.

The halftime show headliners will likely face more direct questions about their opinions on the NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick as Super Bowl LIII approaches.

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