INGLEWOOD, Calif. – Rap icon Eminem took a knee during Super Bowl halftime on Sunday, a move that echoes Colin Kaepernick’s protests against racial injustice that rocked the National Football League during years.
Eminem’s gesture, midway through America’s most-watched TV event, came at a particularly sensitive time for the NFL after a recently fired coach sued the league and several teams for alleged racial discrimination in its hiring practices.
The halftime show during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, which the Rams led 13-10, featured an array of hip-hop acts. In addition to Eminem, legends such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige and Kendrick Lamar have performed.
After performing his song “Lose Yourself,” Eminem took a lying knee with his head bowed.
It came after at least two Rams players, safeties Terrell Burgess and Nick Scott, could be seen kneeling during the national anthem before the game. They had done it on other occasions as well.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league has no problem with kneeling and the league has seen Eminem do it several times during rehearsals. He added that no player has been disciplined by the league for kneeling as it does not violate any league rule.
Kaepernick, the former quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, threw the football world into chaos in 2016 when he first sat down and then knelt during the national anthem to protest against issues such as police brutality. Supporters hailed him for using his platform as a football star to draw attention to injustices. Critics called the protests unpatriotic.
The movement has turned the country’s most popular sport into a political lightning rod. Former President Donald Trump has been among the most vocal critics of the protests and the league’s handling of the matter, which has placed the NFL in an unusual dispute with the nation’s leader. One weekend, players across the league knelt en masse in direct rebuke of Trump’s remarks.
Kaepernick, who hasn’t signed since the move began in 2016, filed a since-settled grievance against the NFL and its teams, alleging they effectively blackballed him because of his outspoken political views. At one point, the league hastily adopted a no-kneeling policy – only to suspend the policy before it was used during a game after backlash from the players’ union.
The issue became sensitive again in 2020 when nationwide protests against systemic racism swept the country. That year, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell released a vivid video in which he apologized for not listening to players earlier on the issue and encouraged peaceful protests.
Just before this Super Bowl, the subject came to life again. Recently fired Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the league and three teams on Feb. 1, alleging that black coaches face racial discrimination in the job market. His lawsuit accused the teams of giving him sham interviews and drew attention to a concern that had lingered for years.
While the NFL dismissed the lawsuit as baseless, league officials repeatedly acknowledged before and after the lawsuit that the racial diversity of key management figures could improve. Goodell this week said the league will assess options to improve results because current policies have failed.
“If it needs an overhaul, you do it,” Goodell said. “Obviously, we haven’t succeeded so far.”
Write to Andrew Beaton at [email protected]
Copyright ©2022 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All rights reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8