A halftime show of solidarity? NFL was ‘aware’ Eminem would kneel at Super Bowl LVI

A man in black clothes kneeling onstage.
Eminem kneels down during the halftime show at Sunday’s Super Bowl.
(Chris O’Meara / Associated Press)

The NFL says it was “aware” that rapper Eminem would kneel during Sunday’s Super Bowl LVI halftime show and did not try to stop him — despite reports saying otherwise.

The 49-year-old rapper — who took the stage at SoFi Stadium in Inglewood with hip-hop heavyweights Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, Kendrick Lamar and 50 Cent — performed his 2002 hit “Lose Yourself” during the fast-moving concert. And as Dre played piano next to him, Eminem concluded his performance by taking a knee on the elaborate stage. He put his right hand on his head and looked downward.

The Grammy and Oscar winner appeared to be paying tribute to former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, though he has not yet publicly commented on the stance. However, he certainly got people talking about the viral moment during the globally watched broadcast.

The stance has become a potent symbol of protest in professional sports since Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem in the 2016 season to protest police brutality and social injustice.


At Sunday’s game, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar led the first-ever halftime performance with rap at its center.

Feb. 13, 2022

After Sunday’s dramatic gesture, social media lighted up with reports that the NFL tried to stop Eminem from kneeling. However, the organization confirmed that it knew about Eminem’s plans all along.

“We watched all elements of the show during multiple rehearsals this week and were aware that Eminem was going to do that,” league spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Associated Press.

“A player or coach could have taken a knee and there would have been no repercussions, so there was no reason to tell an artist she or he could not do so,” McCarthy added in a statement to USA Today.

Dre was joined by Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, Mary J. Blige, Eminem and guest 50 Cent in one of the great halftime shows of all time.

Feb. 13, 2022

Another portion of the performance didn’t have such leniency: Lamar’s lyrics about police brutality (“And we hate popo / Wanna kill us dead in the street fo’ sho”) from his song “Alright” was censored during the broadcast and in the stadium. However, Dr. Dre managed to keep his line about “still not loving police” from “Still D.R.E.” in the show.

On Monday, Dre told TMZ Live that the NFL made only “minor” changes to the set.


“Em taking knee, that was him doing that on his own, and there was no problem with that,” he said. He also noted that Lamar had to take out a lyric referring to gangs, but all in all, it was “no big deal, we get it.”

Kaepernick has not yet publicly commented on Eminem’s tribute, and neither has the rapper. Representatives for both did not respond Monday to The Times’ requests for comment.

But it wouldn’t be the first time Eminem has shown support for the embattled athlete, who sparked a national debate that led to his unceremonious departure from the NFL. (Kaepernick hasn’t played in the league since.)

Tam’s Burgers, Dale’s Donuts, Eve’s After Dark. Compton gets a bright spotlight as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar perform.

Feb. 13, 2022

The “8 Mile” star — a controversial artist in his own right — previously embraced Kaepernick and his message during a 2017 freestyle at the BET Hip Hop Awards. He called on listeners to ball up a fist and said that “this is for Colin.”

The rapper’s 2017 song “Untouchable” also included a verse that referred to Kaepernick: “Just keep marchin’, ’til we reach Congress / 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.”

Though reaction to Eminem’s halftime show of solidarity has been mixed, some in Kaepernick’s corner praised it. Spike Lee — who is directing an ESPN docuseries about the athlete — was one of them.

Photos of celebrities in attendace for Super Bowl LVI featuring the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals

Feb. 14, 2022

The Oscar-winning filmmaker posted the image of Eminem kneeling on Instagram with the caption: “Da Brother From Motown -EMINEM Takes A Knee During Da SUPER BOWL Half Time Show. Folks Be Forgetting COLIN KAEPERNICK Has Been WHITE BALLED For Da Last 5 YEARS. And Dat’s DA TRUTH,RUTH. YA-DIG? SHO-NUFF.”

But sports commentator Jemele Hill, who is also working on the docuseries, added that if Eminem was kneeling in solidarity with Kaepernick, “he should say that” and that it “would be a powerful addition to the conversation.”

Here’s a look at what some others had to say: