(NEXSTAR) — The stage is set for Super Bowl LVI, with the Cincinnati Bengals facing off against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday at SoFi Stadium. Also performing will be five rap and R&B music superstars: Mary J. Blige, Eminem, Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar and Dr. Dre will all perform during the halftime show.
The selection of performers is always a big decision for the year’s biggest TV audience, and the public is rarely privy to which factors go into the final choice. While the National Football League doesn’t go into detail, or generally confirm or deny artists who are considered, it hasn’t stopped musicians from revealing when they’ve been offered a headlining gig.
These are the performers who reportedly had the chance to take the stage and chose not to.
Vocal powerhouse Adele claims she was approached about performing at Super Bowl LI in Houston, but the NFL says she was not.
“First of all, I’m not doing the Super Bowl,” Adele said at a Los Angeles concert in 2016. “I mean, come on, that show is not about music. And I don’t really — I can’t dance or anything like that. They were very kind. They did ask me, but I said no.”
The next day, both the NFL and halftime sponsor Pepsi released a statement saying while they’re “big fans” of Adele, “We have had conversations with several artists… however, we have not at this point extended a formal offer to Adele or anyone else. We are focused on putting together a fantastic show for Houston and we look forward to revealing that in good time.”
Back in 2019, Rihanna told Vogue she had turned down a halftime spot in support of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who became embroiled in controversy for kneeling during pre-game national anthem performances to protest police brutality against Black Americans.
“I couldn’t dare do that,” she said. “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.”
Kaepernick left the 49ers in 2016 and has yet to be re-signed by another team.
There’s been speculation online that Rihanna could possibly join Eminem at Sunday’s game for a performance of their songs “Love the Way You Lie” and “The Monster.” A surprise appearance would be unlikely, however, as the singer recently announced her pregnancy. Nevertheless, many remain hopeful.
“I know @rihanna going to be at the Super Bowl… I’m not stupid,” tweeted @ElijahFrance5.
Billionaire rapper Jay-Z said in a 2020 New York Times interview that he turned down the show because of requests by the NFL on surprise appearances, saying he was pressured to have Rihanna and Kanye West perform “Run This Town.”
“Of course I would have,” said Jay-Z, who also founded the Roc Nation entertainment company. “But I said, ‘No, you get me.’ That is not how you go about it, telling someone that they’re going to do the halftime show contingent on who they bring. I said forget it. It was a principle thing.”
The New York Times reported New England Patriots owner Robert K. Kraft, who serves as chairman of the NFL media committee, later approached Jay-Z to partner with Roc Nation on development of future shows. Super Bowl LIV’s halftime show featured a headline-grabbing performance by Jennifer Lopez and Shakira, a Roc Nation client.
As part of the partnership, Jay-Z joined a new NFL campaign called “Inspire Change,” which focused on “education and economic advancement; police and community relations; and criminal justice reform,” according to the organization.
Despite the inclusion of social justice in the deal, the partnership wasn’t totally celebrated, especially by some in the Black community. Journalist Chris Williamson tweeted: “How do we stop racism, systematic oppression, and police brutality? Jay-Z and the NFL: Let’s sell T-shirts and throw concerts. That’ll really shake up the system.”
Despite never appearing on the Super Bowl stage, Jay-Z’s household has already been well represented there. Superstar wife Beyoncé headlined the show in 2013 and made a guest appearance during Coldplay’s 2016 performance.
Pop star Pink, real name Alecia Moore, told Billboard in 2019 that she turned down the halftime show because of its treatment of Kaepernick.
“I’d probably take a knee and get carried out,” Pink said.
The “Get This Party Started” singer said fear of being criticized for agreeing to it was also a factor, saying, “Everyone who does it gets so persecuted.”
Grammy-winning rapper Cardi B said she also declined the show in support of Kaepernick, but said she had “mixed feelings” about it, Associated Press reports.
“My husband (rapper Offset), he loves football. His kids play football. It’s really hard for him. … He really wants to go to the Super Bowl, but he can’t go to the Super Bowl, because he’s got to stand for something,” she told AP.
She added that Kaepernick “sacrificed his job for us” and that she would “sacrifice a lot of money” to back him up.
Meanwhile, comedian Amy Schumer said in 2018 she was refusing to appear in a Super Bowl commercial in solidarity with Kaepernick. Schumer said in an Instagram post: “Hitting the NFL with the advertisers is the only way to really hurt them. I know opposing the NFL is like opposing the NRA. Very tough, but don’t you want to be proud of how you’re living?”