Jennifer Lopez says NFL tried to remove her 'kids in cages' halftime set the day before the Super Bowl
Towards the end of her new Netflix documentary Halftime, which chronicles the months-long creative process that went into the historic co-headlining set at the Miami-based sporting event, Lopez recalls that the NFL was unhappy with the direction of her segment and attempted to change it just one day prior to the live broadcast.
"We left rehearsal and I noticed everybody was freaking out, but I don't know why. I get a call from [manager] Benny [Medina] and he's like, 'They want to pull the cages.' That night, the higher-ups at the NFL saw it for the first time and they're like, 'Hey, you can't do that,'" she explains. She's referencing a moment of the show that saw her daughter, Emme, singing her mother's 2000 hit "Let's Get Loud" from inside a cage — a moment many interpreted as a comment on the Trump administration's immigration injustices.
Later, Lopez's longtime manager says that he remembers the plans ruffled feathers among power players in the organization.
"The NFL had a real concern about making a political statement about immigration," Medina explains in the film. "They looked at the plans, and the message was absolute. They did not want those cages in the show. That had come down from the highest authority."
A representative for the NFL did not respond to EW's requests for comment. Lopez, however, explains in the movie that she doubled down on the message despite reported pushback.
"For me, this isn't about politics, this is about human rights. I'm facing the biggest crossroads of my life, to be able to perform on the world's biggest stage, but to take out the cages and sacrifice what I believe in would be like never being there at all," says Lopez. "There was a part of me that just got very zen, and I was just like, 'Benny, I don't care what you have to do, we're not changing the show. The Super Bowl is tomorrow and we're not changing anything.'"
Directed by Amanda Micheli, Halftime — which world-premiered last week at the 2022 Tribeca Festival in New York City — also charts Lopez's frustrations with the NFL's decision to hire two co-headlining acts for the 2020 Super Bowl performance, which she calls "the worst idea in the world." Lopez's concerns largely stemmed from time constraints placed on both artists; there's scenes in which Shakira and Lopez are seen discussing how to fairly break down their roughly 14-minute show between them.
"I know that the Super Bowl people want us to be weaved throughout the show. I haven't had a confirmation about how many minutes I'm going to have," Shakira tells Lopez over the phone in one scene from Halftime. Lopez responds: "Let me address that really quick. They said 12 minutes. I got kind of a good confirmation that we could have an extra minute or two, so now we're at, like, 13, 14 minutes. I think, Shakira, what we should have is you should have half the time and I should [have half]."
"If it was going to be a double-headliner, they should have given us 20 minutes," the Hustlers star finishes. "That's what they should've f---ing done."
Halftime is now streaming on Netflix.
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