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This year's Super Bowl LIV went off without any hitches that reached the scandalous apexes of Janet Jackson's wardrobe malfunction back in 2004, but there were still controversial moments. Though largely celebrated, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira's pro bono halftime show was criticized for being too racy, and much earlier in the evening, a key member of the musical interlude's production company, the rapper mogul Jay-Z, caught flak along with superstar wife Beyoncé for sitting down during Demi Lovato's national anthem. But the Roc Nation founder says it wasn't done in protest.
After footage made its way online of Jay-Z (real name Shaun Carter) and Beyoncé (Knowles-Carter) being planted in their seats during Demi Lovato's "Star-Spangled Banner" performance, the couple face much scrutiny online from those who questioned the presence of political motivations behind the act. Speaking at New York's Columbia University on Tuesday (via TMZ), Jay-Z was asked if staying seated in that moment was meant to convey a message. In Jay-Z's words:
It actually wasn't. Sorry. What happened was not premeditated at all. Remember now, context. TMZ can tell you anything without speaking to me. I need to tell you; if it was me, I would say, 'Yes, that's what I've done.' I think people know that about me.
Granted, Jay-Z wasn't exactly in a prime position to make grand protests against the NFL, seeing as how he'd only relatively recently signed the Roc Nation deal with the League to produce the Super Bowl entertainment. In fact, Jay-Z says both he and Beyoncé were entirely wrapped up in the behind-the-scenes production elements of all the performances that it completely took over their brains.
After Beyoncé shared that she was nervous for Demi Lovato, having previously performed during the big game herself, the musical couple discussed the audio volume being at a proper level to make everyone on the floor/stage really "feel the music," among other topics. Then it was time for the nation anthem. According to Jay-Z:
So 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 looked and how she sounds, and what she's going through in her life and to be on the stage, we're so proud of her. And then it finished, and then my phone's ringing.
That was the point when Jay-Z realized just how he and his family looked by sitting down during the national anthem, at a time when Colin Kaepernick's kneeling protests still resonate quite loudly within the NFL and its viewing public. Roc Nation's deal with the NFL took on a lot of flak on its own at the time, with many of the rapper's fans being quite displeased by the team-up, despite the goals that Jay-Z set and felt he attained with this year's lineup of artists.
Jay-Z used that lineup as proof of the waves he's already making within the NFL. After explaining that he and Beyoncé wouldn't put their also-present daughter Blue Ivy in that position – he joked she wouldn't be able to patiently wait for any pre-planned protests anyway – Jay-Z said that sitting during the national anthem wouldn't be his style of protesting.
It just happened. We were making the loudest sound. I didn't have to make a silent protest. When you look at the stage, the artists that we chose, looking at Colombian Shak, Puerto Rican J-Lo. We were making the loudest stands.
You can check out the video below for a look at Jay-Z and Bey staring intently at Demi Lovato's performance.
Will this be the last word on the matter? Is there ever a last word on anything? Here's hoping next year's Super Bowl halftime show entertainers (and pre-game anthem performers) bring just as much excitement as Jennifer Lopez and Shakira did. Also, if we could get 100% fewer creepy Jason Momoa commercials, that'd be great.