Standing up for the national anthem is one of the most notable traditions of the Super Bowl half-time show. However, the music scene’s biggest power couple didn’t appear to be in a patriotic mood when they attended the sporting spectacle in 2020. Yes, Beyoncé and Jay-Z decided to rest their legs when “The Star Spangled Banner” was performed but not for the reason you may think.
The Super Bowl LIV was contested between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Francisco 49ers at Miami Gardens’ Hard Rock Stadium in February 2020. The two teams were evenly matched at the midway point. But thanks to the likes of Damien Williams and Travis Kelce, the Chiefs eventually ran out 31-20 winners to lift the trophy for the first time since way back in 1970.
Of course, as with every Super Bowl, the half-time entertainment was just as highly-anticipated as the actual game. And on this occasion, it was two Latin pop powerhouses that stole the show, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez. The superstars were reportedly chosen to reflect host city Miami’s culture and were the first Latin music names to serve as headliners since Gloria Estefan in 1999.
Shakira kicked the party off with renditions of her hits “She Wolf,” “Empire” and “Ojos Asi.” She was then joined by Puerto Rican reggaeton singer Bad Bunny on a duet of her smash “Whenever, Wherever.” The Colombian then concluded her set with a tongue-waggling, crowd-surfing performance of “Hips Don’t Lie.”
Fellow co-headliner Jennifer Lopez then took her turn in the limelight with renditions of “Jenny from the Block,” “Ain’t It Funny” and “Get Right.” The Hustlers star then pole danced to “Waiting for Tonight” before joining forces with J Balvin to combine several of their respective biggest hits. J-Lo finished her solo spot by inviting her daughter Emme Muñiz and an all-girl choir to join her on a politically-charged performance of “Let’s Get Loud.”
Both parties then returned for an encore, Shakira with “Waka Waka (This Time for Africa)” and J-Lo with “Aquanile.” The two chart-toppers then served up synchronized shimmies before exiting the stage to rapturous applause from the 62,417 in attendance. And this crowd also included two even bigger music stars.
Indeed, Beyoncé and Jay-Z decided to attend the game with their daughter, Blue Ivy, also in tow. But the rap mogul wasn’t there simply to watch the sporting action on the field unfold. Jay-Z’s Roc Nation company was also responsible for producing the half-time show in conjunction with the NFL.
Of course, Beyoncé is no stranger to the halftime show, either. The music icon headlined the same event at the 2013 Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans. And her epic set, which also included guest appearances from former Destiny’s Child bandmates Kelly Rowland and Michelle Williams, was the second most-watched of all time.
As always, Beyoncé showed off an array of dazzling moves during her 2013 Super Bowl display. Nowadays, however, she’s becoming more renowned for sitting down when it comes to big events. At the 2020 Golden Globes the superstar caused a stir by refusing to get off her seat when Joaquin Phoenix won for Best Performance by an Actor in a Motion Picture – Drama.
The rest of the star-studded audience instantly leapt to their feet to applaud Phoenix’s award-winning performance in Joker. However, although she still clapped, Beyoncé decided to sit this one out. Unsurprisingly, social media soon went into overdrive theorizing why the singer had apparently snubbed such a popular actor.
Some believed that Beyoncé, who was at the event as a Best Original Song nominee for her The Lion King contribution “Spirit,” was deliberately protesting Phoenix’s victory. One particularly angry Twitter user vented, “You’re a joke for not standing up for Joaquin Phoenix. Understandable to make a statement. But that’s just poor sportsmanship for someone that actually deserved recognition.”
Others argued that the star was actually being considerate. Indeed, Beyoncé’s defenders claimed that her elaborate Schiaparelli outfit would have blocked the audience’s view. And some simply saw the funny side, with one Twitter user, commenting, “Beyoncé sitting during the standing ovation for Joaquin Phoenix’s win is the type of energy I want to see from everyone in 2020.”
Beyoncé has yet to explain whether fashion, courtesy or a simple dislike of comic book movies prevented her from standing up at the ceremony. Of course, this wouldn’t be the last time in 2020 that Beyoncé would draw attention for failing to get up off her seat. Alongside her husband Jay-Z, she was also criticized for sitting down during one of the Super Bowl’s biggest traditions.
America’s national anthem has been belted out before every single Super Bowl game bar one since the inaugural event in 1967. The anomaly occurred in 1977 at the Super Bowl XI when Vikki Carr performed “America the Beautiful” instead. Since 2009, this other patriotic anthem has been performed just before “The Star-Spangled Banner,” too.
The Michigan Marching Band, The Pride of Arizona and UCLA choir were the first to perform the national anthem at the first ever Super Bowl in 1967. Charley Pride, Cheryl Ladd and Tom Sullivan are some of the more familiar names who were given the honor over the next few years. However, in 1982 organizers decided to add a bit of star power to proceedings.
Indeed, none other than former The Supremes frontwoman and all-round musical icon Diana Ross was chosen to perform the anthem in 1982. Barry Manilow, Billy Joel and Neil Diamond were all invited to do the same during the rest of the decade. And in 1991 Whitney Houston’s version recorded at the Super Bowl was officially released as a single.
Backstreet Boys, Mariah Carey and Christina Aguilera are just a few of the big pop names who have powered their way through the song since the turn of the century. Beyoncé herself was also given the honor at the Super Bowl XXXVIII at Houston’s Reliant Stadium in 2004. But in 2020 it was the turn of Disney Channel graduate Demi Lovato.
Lovato’s appearance at the Super Bowl halftime show fulfilled a dream that she’d had since her teens. In 2010, the then-17-year-old singer/actress tweeted, “One day, I’m gonna sing the national anthem at a super bowl. Onnnee dayyy.” And the positive response to her performance proved that sometimes good things really do come to those who wait.
Of course, the 2020 Super Bowl wasn’t the first time that Lovato had performed the national anthem at a sporting event. She also belted out the track at an NFL game between the Seattle Seahawks and the Dallas Cowboys in 2008. Just three years later she did the same at the World Series and then in 2017 she delivered another rousing rendition at the boxing encounter between Floyd Mayweather and Conor McGregor.
But Lovato’s rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2020 Super Bowl was undoubtedly her most high profile. The whole event was reported to have attracted an astonishing 102 million viewers at home. And the rapturous applause inside the stadium confirmed that those actually at the game certainly appreciated Lovato’s efforts as well.
Tradition dictates that viewers should stand whenever the national anthem is performed at the Super Bowl and sing along with the words. But several famous faces had other ideas when it came to the 2020 event. In fact, none other than the President himself, Donald Trump, went against protocol while watching the game at his Mar-a-Lago Super Bowl party.
In a video clip obtained by The Miami Herald, the 45th President can be seen acting in an odd, fidgety manner while Lovato is performing the song. At one point he even pretends that he’s conducting the orchestra. Trump had previously blasted athletes who’d refused to stand proudly during “The Star-Spangled Banner.”
Trump once stated, in fact, that the National Football League should essentially say, “You’re fired” to any player who fails to respect the national anthem. His comments came in September 2017 following the rise of a movement which began with Colin Kaepernick’s actions in 2016. The former San Francisco 49er famously once kneeled during “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a means of protesting racial inequality and police brutality in the U.S.
Kaepernick initially received support from both Beyoncé and Jay-Z following his protest. In 2017 the former presented the footballer with the Muhammad Ali Legacy Awards at the Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year ceremony. And she was keen to sing his praises, telling the audience, “Colin took action with no fear of consequence or repercussion. Only hope to change the world for the better, to change perception, to change the way we treated each other, especially people of color.”
But things between Kaepernick and the power couple turned sour in 2019 when Jay-Z’s company Roc Nation joined forces with the NFL to stage its entertainment events. A lawyer for the ex-San Francisco 49er, Mark Geragos, told ABC that the partnership “crosses the intellectual picket line.” Kaepernick hasn’t played football since 2016 and has accused the NFL of deliberately preventing him from doing so.
Therefore, many were left confused when Beyoncé and Jay-Z were both spotted rooted firmly to their seats during Lovato’s performance of “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the 2020 Super Bowl. Could the pair really be making a similar protest to Kaepernick? And at an event that Jay-Z had helped to stage?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers star Brent Grimes’ wife Miko was certainly left baffled. On her Instagram account, she captioned an image of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s sitdown with a thinking emoji and the query, “I thought we were ‘past kneeling’ tho?” Grimes was referring to the “I think we’ve moved past kneeling” comments Jay-Z made at a press conference to confirm Roc Nation’s deal with the NFL.
Grimes’ inquiring Instagram post was reposted by both Kaepernick and his girlfriend Nessa Diab on their own accounts. Many other social media users also had their say on the matter. One particularly disgruntled individual on Twitter posted, “Beyoncé and Jay-Z didn’t stand during the Super Bowl national anthem to make a statement. I don’t think so, I think they only showed how disgusting they both are…”
“How could you not stand with four WWII vets there – 100 years old each!” commented one patriotic user on Twitter. Another remarked, “Beyoncé and Jay-Z are both so obnoxious. I’m embarrassed she’s from Houston.” The pair were also described in another tweet as “terrible role models for their daughter and for the country.”
However, not all the feedback was negative. The couple were defended by an ex-military man who tweeted that he’d served “20 years proudly… so that people could exercise their 1st amendment rights – like, for example, not having to stand for the national anthem, It is their right to not stand if they choose. Freedom.”
Another supporter also leapt to the pair’s defense on Twitter, posting, “Wow! They’re Americans who believe you ‘have to’ stand for the national anthem. That’s interesting. It’s not true. It’s always been a choice. In other news, no one is mad at the white guy sitting next to them seated during the song?”
As speculation continued to mount about Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s apparent Super Bowl protest, the power couple themselves remained frustratingly silent. However, just two days after attending the game, rapper Jay-Z finally decided to address the elephant in the room – and his explanation was perhaps a lot more mundane than most expected.
Jay-Z chose to finally put all the rumors to bed when he spoke at a lecture series held at Columbia University in New York. The rapper was asked explicitly by the event’s moderator about their Super Bowl sitdown and whether it was “meant to convey a signal?” Jay-Z replied, “It actually wasn’t, sorry.”
The hip-hop mogul went on to claim that if his and Beyoncé’s actions had been political, he’d have come clean. He told the audience, “I’d tell you… I’d say, ‘Yes, that’s what I’ve done.’ I think people know that about me.” So why exactly did the two superstars fail to stand up with the rest of the Super Bowl crowd?
Jay-Z explained, “What happened was, we got there, we were sitting, and now the show’s about to start. My wife was with me and so she says to me, ‘I know this feeling right here.’ Like, she’s super-nervous because she’s performed at Super Bowls before.” Much to the audience’s amusement, the rapper then acknowledged that he hadn’t.
“So we get there and we immediately jump into artist mode,” Jay-Z continued. “Now I’m really just looking at the show. Did the mic start? Was it too low to start?… I had to explain to them [that] as an artist, if you don’t feel the music, you can’t really reach that level. So the whole time we’re sitting there, we’re talking about the performance.”
Unfortunately, the pair were so engrossed in their own conversation that they failed to even realize they had made an almighty faux pas. Jay-Z expanded, “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, and her life…, we were so proud of her. And then it finished and then my phone rang. And it was like, ‘You know you didn’t …’ I’m like, ‘What?’”
Jay-Z also insists that he and wife Beyoncé would never make such a political statement in the company of their eight-year-old. He told the Columbia University audience, “Blue was right next to us, we wouldn’t do that to Blue and put her in that position. And if anyone who knows Blue… If we told her we were going to do something like that, you would have seen her attacking me 100 times.”
Indeed, Jay-Z went on to reveal that his first-born isn’t one for keeping quiet. He said, “She’s the kid that gets in the car and closes the door and says, ‘Are we there yet, Daddy?’ So she would say, ‘What time? Are we doing it? Are we doing it now? It’s 7:05, Daddy… It’s 7:06.’”
Jay-Z concluded, “I didn’t have to make a silent protest… If you look at the stage and the artists that we chose — Colombian [Shakira] and Puerto Rican J. Lo — we were making the loudest statement… And we had… a commercial running [on] social injustice during the Super Bowl… Given the context, I didn’t have to make a silent protest.”