In an apparent reference to former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s past actions of protest, the rapper Eminem ended his Super Bowl halftime performance of “Lose Yourself” by dropping to one knee and holding his hand in his head. Free-agent Kaepernick still believes he was dropped from the San Francisco 49’ers retaliation for taking the knee during the National Anthem before games beginning in 2016.

For a while, the NFL struggled with booking artists for the show who were voicing their support for Kaepernick, but the league has had more success with that since partnering with the Jay-Z-led entertainment company Roc Nation to co-produce the show back in 2019.

The Halftime show unfolded with tensions in the back of some viewers’ minds, and while the performances were undeniably exciting and great to see, there were other jarring moments that reminded us that the NFL may be controlling the show messaging. For example, Kendrick Lamar’s hit song “Alright” contains the line, “And we hate po-po, wanna kill us dead in the streets fo’ sho.” In the audio of this song’s broadcast, “po-po” was noticeably not heard, and the camera cut to a birds-eye perspective, on Lamar so it was unclear if he delivered the line or not.

Not all lines critical of police were removed, though. In the final climactic performance of the night, Dr. Dre’s classic “Still D.R.E.,” the line “Still not loving the police” was still heard in the broadcast. A spokesman for the NFL, Brian McCarthy, also claimed in a statement to CBS News that the NFL expected Eminem’s kneel in the show, but other reports say he was instructed not to do it.

“A player or coach could have taken a knee today and there would not have been an issue,” McCarthy added. Rams players Nick Scott and Terrell Burgess were both seen kneeling during the performance of the national anthem Sunday.

The NFL’s treatment of Kaepernick isn’t the only sore spot for the league. Last year, NFL coach Brian Flores filed a class-action lawsuit against the organization itself, and the New York Giants, Denver Broncos, Miami Dolphins, alleging racial discrimination from the organization for various reasons including mistreatment while he worked as a coach for the Dolphins. He also claims team owners for the Giants and Broncos up sham interviews with him when they had already settled on hiring white coaches. Flores also added the Houston Texans in an amendment to the suit recently.

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