Despite what it may have looked like, Jay-Z promises the sight of his family, including wife Beyoncé and daughter Blue Ivy, sitting during Demi Lovato’s National Anthem performance at the Super Bowl last weekend was not a form of protest.
The rapper addressed the situation, video of which previously spread through TMZ, during a discussion at Columbia University on Tuesday with journalism professor Jelani Cobb, the first of the newly instituted Shawn “JAY-Z” Carter Lecture Series.
“It actually wasn’t. Sorry,” Jay-Z said, as shown in footage also published by TMZ. “It really wasn’t. What happened was, it was not premeditated at all.”
He went on to explain, “We got there and we were sitting and now the show’s about to start and wife is with me… She says to me, ‘I know this feeling right here.’ She’s super nervous [for Lovato] because she performed at the Super Bowl before. I haven’t.”
Jay-Z said they “immediately jump into artist mode” upon arrival, talking about “how beautiful [Lovato] looks and she sounds and what she’s going through and her life, for her to be on this stage we’re so proud of her.”
Though he only found out later that they inadvertently drew criticism, there seemed to be parallels at the time between their sitting and what former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did. Kaepernick first knelt during the National Anthem at a football game in 2016 in quiet protest of police brutality against black citizens. The act ignited a firestorm within the NFL that still rages today. Kaepernick, now a free agent, hasn’t been hired by a NFL team since.
Jay-Z and Beyoncé have long been supporters of Kaepernick, which is why the rapper faced backlash when his Roc Nation company announced a partnership with the NFL to produce events and social activism. Jay-Z said recently that he hopes to incite change from within. “No one is saying [Kaepernick] hasn’t been done wrong,” he said. “He was done wrong. I would understand if it was three months ago. But it was three years ago and someone needs to say, ‘What do we do now — because people are still dying?’”