Rihanna on Why She Did the Super Bowl Halftime Show After Refusing to Do It in 2018

She still feels the NFL has progress to make.

Rihanna performs onstage during the Apple Music Super Bowl LVII Halftime Show at State Farm Stadium on February 12, 2023 in Glendale, Arizona.
(Image credit: Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

Rihanna had been approached by the NFL about doing the Super Bowl Halftime Show several times before she agreed to take the stage this past Sunday.

Most notably, Rihanna publicly refused to do the show back in 2018, a decision she made in solidarity with Colin Kaepernick, who took the knee at the event in 2016 to protest racism and police brutality. The NFL subsequently banned the act of taking the knee during the National Anthem at the Super Bowl.

"I just couldn’t be a sellout," Rihanna told U.S. Vogue in 2019, explaining her decision. "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."

Now, in a new cover interview with British Vogue, the superstar explained why she felt better about performing at the Super Bowl this year.

"There’s still a lot of mending to be done in my eyes, but it’s powerful to break those doors, and have representation at such a high, high level and a consistent level," she said, pointing to the fact that last year's lineup consisted of a slew of rap legends. "Two Super Bowls back-to-back, you know, representing the urban community, globally. It is powerful. It sends a really strong message."

The cause of racial justice is hitting especially close to home for Rihanna now that she's a new mom. "Of course, raising a young Black man is one of the scariest responsibilities in life," she said.

"You’re like, 'What am I leaving my kids to? This is the planet they’re gonna be living on?' All of those things really start to hit differently."

Rihanna and her partner ASAP Rocky welcomed their son in May 2022, and the Fenty founder announced her second pregnancy during her set at the 2023 Super Bowl.

Iris Goldsztajn
Morning Editor

Iris Goldsztajn is a London-based journalist, editor and author. She is the morning editor at Marie Claire, and her work has appeared in the likes of British Vogue, InStyle, Cosmopolitan, Refinery29 and SELF. Iris writes about everything from celebrity news and relationship advice to the pitfalls of diet culture and the joys of exercise. She has many opinions on Harry Styles, and can typically be found eating her body weight in cheap chocolate.