How the NFL got U2 for free -- Post-9/11, the footballers jettisoned Janet Jackson for the socially conscious Irish rockers

Credit: Bono: Kevin Mazur/

If Britney Spears landed $1 million for her Pepsi-through-the-generations ads, how much did U2’s rousing two-song Super Bowl stint cost the NFL? Not a thing. According to a source, Mariah Carey, Paul McCartney, and U2 didn’t get a dime for their live performances on the Feb. 3 telecast, though the NFL did pick up travel expenses (and it’s not like these folks fly JetBlue). Interestingly, U2 weren’t the NFL’s first choice — Janet Jackson was reportedly booked for the halftime extravaganza.

Then, after the Sept. 11 attacks, a group of team owners and league officials visited New York City for NFL meetings and attended a U2 concert at Madison Square Garden. Impressed by the socially conscious rockers and concerned about setting the right tone for Super Bowl festivities, they offered U2 the prime pre-Grammy gig — and in the process got a stadium-size bargain. Says one NFL insider: ”We would have paid U2, but they didn’t want any money.” (The band’s publicist had no comment.)