The NFL officially announced Sunday — finally — that Maroon 5, backed by Travis Scott and Big Boi, will perform during this year’s Super Bowl halftime show in Atlanta. It’s an unusually late move for the organization, which typically has the musical act lined up for months, to make an official announcement during the second week of the playoffs — less than a month before the big game.
The Super Bowl tends to draw the biggest (and least controversial) names in pop, so enlisting Maroon 5, which has earned 14 top 10 hits on the Billboard 100 and sold more than 50 million albums, makes sense for the most-watched show of the year. Six-time Grammy nominee Travis Scott and six-time Grammy winner Big Boi, the latter of whom calls Atlanta home, will add a hip-hop tinge to Maroon 5’s inoffensive pop.
This year’s booking was fraught with controversy.
Unofficial news of Maroon 5’s headlining broke in Variety in September and was quickly met with a disappointed sigh by many fans hoping the NFL would tap into Atlanta’s deep bench of talent.
No one officially confirmed the news at the time. Adam Levine, the band’s frontman, merely said, “It’s a rumor. I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of this rumor. It’s definitely a rumor. And the rumor is a rumor that everyone seems to be discussing.”
Meanwhile, questions of who might join — or replace — the band quickly flared up, with Travis Scott’s name a front-runner in the conversation.
As The Washington Post’s Bethonie Butler wrote in December: “Entertainment slots for the upcoming halftime show have reportedly been tough to fill amid outcry over the National Football League’s relationship with activist and former player Colin Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback set off controversy in 2016 when he began kneeling during the national anthem in protest of police brutality against black Americans. In the years since, hundreds of other NFL players have followed suit in a campaign against racial inequality.”
Artists including Rihanna, Adele, Jay-Z, Pink and Cardi B all reportedly turned down the spot, citing the Kaepernick situation.
Scott felt similarly and considered passing on the show. Instead, he “required the NFL to make a joint donation to an organization fighting for social justice in order for him to move forward with the event,” according to a Billboard story published Sunday. Together, the NFL and Scott donated $500,000 to the Dream Corps, an organization that bills itself as a “social justice accelerator.”
“I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” Scott said in a statement. “I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation.”
The Super Bowl will be broadcast from Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta on Feb. 3.