Why Rihanna Once Turned Down A Super Bowl Performance To Avoid Being A 'Sellout'

What made her change her mind?

Rihanna Andrea Raffin / Shutterstock

Rihanna has delighted fans with the announcement that she will be performing at the Super Bowl LVII next year but some have been left surprised by the singer's sudden change in opinion regarding the NFL.

Fans of the "Diamonds" singer have been eagerly awaiting new music from the artist who hasn't released an album since her 2016 chart-topper "ANTI."

So, needless to say, the announcement has been exciting for many. But, for others, the singer is going back on her word.


Rihanna once turned down the Super Bowl in support of Colin Kaepernick.

In 2018, Rihanna made headlines by turning down the NFL’s offer to perform at the 2019 halftime show to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick and his peaceful protest against police brutality.

Kaepernick was pushed out of the NFL after causing controversy by repeatedly kneeling during the National Anthem throughout 2016.

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Back then, Rihanna thought that performing in the wake of the organization's response to the Colin Kaepernick protest would make her appear to be a "sellout."

“I couldn’t dare do that," Rihanna told Vogue in 2018 when asked why she had turned down the performance.

"For what? Who gains from that? Not my people. I just couldn’t be a sellout. I couldn’t be an enabler. There’s things within that organization that I do not agree with at all, and I was not about to go and be of service to them in any way.”

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So, yesterday, fans were confused when she posted a picture of her tattooed hand holding a football. 


Many felt there hadn't been enough of an improvement to justify Rihanna's change of tune.

So, what made RiRi change her mind about showing up to one of the biggest entertainment shows in history?

The NFL agreed to finance players’ community activism

During the 2017 season, the NFL and the Players Coalition agreed that the NFL would financially support the activism efforts of players.

The arrangement was that the league would provide almost $90 in aid toward social causes. The funds were set to go towards improving law enforcement, criminal justice reform, and education.


But it wasn’t enough, as the public soon learned that the NFL expected compliance in return. League officials stipulated that players needed to stop kneeling during the National Anthem.

In February 2019, both Kaepernick settled with the NFL for an undisclosed amount after the former football star took a lawsuit over claims that the league colluded with their teams to prevent him from playing.

Colin went on to become the face and voice of a controversial Nike ad campaign where he encouraged viewers to “believe in something, even if it means sacrificing everything.

The NFL commissioner has admitted wrongdoing in the league's treatment of players' protests.

In June of 2019, Roger Goodell, the NFL Commissioner, released a video stating that the league was wrong in attempting to take away players’ rights to peacefully protest.


He acknowledged Black victims of police brutality like George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery.

In that same video, he condemned racism and encouraged everyone to stand against it.

Noticeably missing from the Goodell video was any mention of Kaepernick, which led many to doubt the authenticity. 


Overall attitudes have changed about the NFL protests.

Since Kaepernick was blackballed from the league for taking a knee during the national anthem, many of the people that initially spoke out against him have changed their stances.

Tom Brady, along with several team owners, who initially started out be critiquing Colin, eventually sought understanding and became aware of racial inequities, offering their support in the cause.

With a myriad of players and owners speaking out about social injustice, people that previously boycotted the NFL are slowly starting to trickle back into the stands.

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NyRee Ausler is a writer from Seattle, Washington, and author of seven books. She covers lifestyle, entertainment and news, and self-focused content, as well as navigating the workplace and social issues.