Jay-Z gives explanation for sitting during national anthem

Iconic married couple Beyoncé and Jay-Z caused quite the stir on Feb. 2, 2020, when they sat down during the national anthem at Super Bowl LIV in Miami, Fla. People found out about the supposed move when TMZ posted a video of the duo and their daughter, 8-year-old Blue Ivy, sitting down while Demi Lovato belted out the lyrics to the "The Star-Spangled Banner." Outraged headlines and reactions spread like wildfire, including a chastising from critic Kyle Smith, who argued in the New York Post that the musicians should "have gratitude" for their country. 

Of course, sitting down during the national anthem is vastly more layered than not respecting the USA and its veterans. Case in point? Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick's "take a knee" movement, which is about peacefully drawing awareness to racial injustice in America. But were Mr. and Mrs. Carter taking a hard political stance, or was this just an honest misunderstanding? The curiosity is especially heightened considering the fact that Jay-Z's label, Roc Nation, partnered with the NFL in August 2019 to "help advise on the selection of artists for major NFL performances like the Super Bowl" in order to "nurture and strengthen community through football and music, including through the NFL's Inspire Change initiative," per the NFL's website.

Ready to get to the bottom of the controversy? We break down what Jay-Z and Beyoncé truly intended when they sat during the national anthem.

Jay-Z's response to the drama might surprise you

Jay-Z had the chance to address the Super Bowl LIV backlash during a talk at New York's Columbia University on Feb. 4, 2020, which reshaped the narrative of this entire controversy. "It wasn't. Sorry," he shared when asked whether the move was a political one, per Page Six. "It really wasn't." The "99 Problems" rapper then dove into a explanation of how he and Beyoncé were focused on the pre-show performances, featuring artists picked with the help of Roc Nation. "I'm looking at the show. 'Did the mic start? Was it too low to start?'" he said. "The whole time we're sitting there, we're talking about the performance. Then right after that, Demi comes out, and we're talking about how beautiful she looks and how she sounds and what she's gone through in her life for her to be on the stage." He added, "We're so proud of her."

The New York native, who revealed he wouldn't have included his young daughter in a political protest, also argued boundaries were pushed at Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's inclusive halftime show. "I didn't have to make a silent protest," Jay-Z elaborated. "If you look at the stage, the artists that we chose, Colombian Shakira, Puerto Rican J.Lo. We were making the biggest loudest protest of all."

Considering J.Lo and Shakira conveyed messages of choosing unity over divisiveness, it's an arguably fair point to make.

Jay-Z wants to move forward

Jay-Z's connection to the NFL is complicated and teeming with controversy, so it's honestly no surprise that his attendance at the Super Bowl LIV sparked some drama. It all started when the rapper publicly supported Colin Kaepernick in 2017 during an appearance on Saturday Night Live, wearing a sports jersey with the former 49ers star's name, "Colin K," and his team number emblazoned on the back. The musician also dedicated a song, "The Story of O.J.," to Kaepernick at one of his concerts in September 2017, a tune largely about the struggles of African American people in America. Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with the 49ers in March 2017, was allegedly being blackballed by the NFL at the time for his involvement in the "take a knee" movement. Despite enjoying an impressive career up until his disagreements with the organization, at the time of this writing, he remains unsigned by an NFL team.

Considering Jay-Z had supported the ex-football star in years past, some people were outraged when he struck up a massive deal with the NFL in 2019. The dad-of-three seemingly brushed off the backlash, arguing its time to move forward from Kaepernick. "No one is saying he hasn't been done wrong," Jay-Z told The New York Times in February 2020. "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?"

Jay-Z's Inspire Change Partnership faces criticism

There's an ongoing debate about whether Jay-Z's partnership with the NFL and his leadership of the Inspire Change initiative is effective. The Atlantic writer Jemele Hill argued in August 2019 that, "It doesn't matter whom the NFL partners with, or how much money it pours into social-justice causes. The league's actions come off as disingenuous because Kaepernick remains unemployed as a result of a peaceful protest."

Inspire Change has attempted to draw awareness of racial injustice in America, working together with the NFL Players Coalition. The group aims to "end social injustices and racial inequality," and works together alongside Inspire Change to drive this message home. One example is when the Players Coalition aired a Super Bowl LIV commercial highlighting the death of Corey Jones, who was killed by a police officer in 2015. Jones was the cousin of former Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Anquan Boldin. Boldin founded the coalition after the tragedy, hoping it will improve police/community relations and criminal justice reform. 

The Atlantic writer Hannah Girogis found the ad ineffective, noting, "There was no reference to the work of a specific community-based organization or commentary on what kinds of policies might best combat police brutality. Rather, Boldin invoked his cousin's memory specifically to promote the NFL's Inspire Change program; with the spot, the league chose to elevate its own work above everything else."

Bottom line? The relationship between the NFL and Jay-Z — including where it concerns the national anthem — continues to be controversial.