Eminem's Halftime Show Gesture Rocks Twitter

Eminem has a long career of being controversial. Slim Shady is no stranger to ruffling audiences' feathers, as evidenced by his countless lyrics covering taboo, if not inflammatory, topics. The outspoken rapper raised eyebrows when he became even more outspoken about his political affiliation in recent years, as he released a scathing freestyle cypher at the 2018 BET Hip Hop Awards absolutely laying into former U.S. president Donald Trump.

Eminem has also made his alignment with the Black Lives Matter movement public, supporting scandalized NFL player Colin Kaepernick through the athlete's protest of police brutality by kneeling for the National Anthem. Em spoke out against Kaepernick's critics in an interview with Sway Calloway, speaking to the pain behind his necessary protest. "If you feel like you should stand for the anthem, stand for the anthem," Eminem explained. "That's fine. But you also need to realize that this is America and people have died for these rights to be able to protest and to be able to take a knee."

Kneeling has been a hotly debated issue for the NFL, which reportedly forbade Super Bowl LVI halftime performers from doing the gesture ahead of the show, according to Puck. However, like he hinted in his 1999 song "Just Don't Give A F***," Eminem isn't afraid to break the rules — and his actions made a big impression on social media.

Eminem takes a stand by taking a knee

Despite reports he was supposedly asked not to, Eminem kneeled during his Super Bowl LVI halftime performance, the New York Post reported. After rapping his hit song "Lose Yourself," Eminem took a knee onstage, resembling Colin Kaepernick's controversial protest of police brutality that led to his exit from the NFL. The move was widely applauded by fans, who were shocked Eminem took a stand against the league.

"​​Straight up: Eminem taking a knee to stand in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick is what made this #SuperBowl actually SUPER!" one fan tweeted. "However you feel about him, sticking it to a league that has had treacherous hiring practices with Black coaches and likely colluded to keep a man out of the league via every owner's approval, it's lovely," another fan tweeted. One Twitter user summed up Em's irreverent actions simply, writing, "Legend behaviour."

Fellow halftime performer Dr. Dre also reportedly went against the wishes of the NFL by keeping an anti-police lyric in his performance of his 1999 hit "Still D.R.E." when he rapped, in part, "still not loving the police," per The Washington Times. It seems the 2022 halftime show will be remembered even beyond its iconic performances.

Eminem knelt during rehearsal

While Eminem shocked audiences by kneeling, the NFL was reportedly aware of the rapper's subtle stunt during his "Lose Yourself" performance, according to NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy. "We watched all elements of the show during multiple rehearsals this week and were aware that Eminem was going to do that," McCarthy announced in a statement following the show, per ESPN.

Whether his taking a knee came as a surprise or not, Eminem was admittedly nervous to perform alongside hip-hop icons Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and special guest 50 Cent on the massive, national stage. "It's f**king nerve-wracking," Eminem said of headlining the halftime show, per SiriusXM. While Em was on board from the beginning to rap with the star-studded group, he confessed to underestimating the scale of the production in rehearsals. "To me, there is nothing more final than live TV," Eminem said. "If you f**k up, you f**k up is there forever."

Eminem has always stood for free speech

Long before Eminem braced the national stage at the Super Bowl LVI halftime show, the rapper's music communicated his beliefs about free speech. His 2002 track "White America" dives into his critiques of American society. He raps sarcastically, "How many people are proud to be citizens / Of this beautiful country of ours, the stripes and the stars / For the rights that men have died for to protect? / The women and men who have broke their necks / For the freedom of speech the United States government has sworn to uphold ... or so we're told."

With Em's staunch beliefs about free speech, the rapper is also a fierce supporter of anti-racism. He makes his stances on both issues clear in his 2017 track "Untouchable," arguably his most political song to date. On the track, he calls out the hypocrisy behind the Colin Kaepernick NFL controversy, rapping, "But they're gonna say you're tryin' to take an irrational stance / If you try to slander the flag but / Somebody has to be the sacrificial lamb / So they call it a Kaepernick tantrum / If you don't stand for the national anthem." Judging by his history of bold lyrics, it should be no surprise he made such a big statement at the Super Bowl.