The National Football League is having a very difficult time finding acts to play the halftime show for the league's annual Super Bowl — and musicians are beginning to call the prime time performance slot the "least-wanted gig" in music.
Variety Magazine reports that Maroon 5 is, so far, the only act scheduled to perform during this year's Super Bowl halftime show, but even the multi-platinum band has yet to confirm their appearance according to NME, and they can't find a single act willing to make a "special appearance" during their 15-minute set between halves of the national football championship game.
"According to sources," Variety reports, "the band has reached out to more than a half-dozen stars to appear as featured guests during the 13-minute slot midway through Super Bowl LIII, but so far, none have agreed to do it. Among those considering the appearance are Cardi B, who is featured on the Maroon 5 hit 'Girls Like You,' which spent seven weeks at No. 1 over the fall (the rapper is also scheduled to appear at the Grammy Awards on Feb. 10) and Andre Benjamin, AKA Andre 3000 of beloved local act Outkast."
The problem seems to be the NFL, and in particular, its relationship with out-of-work second-string QB Colin Kaepernick.
Just days after word broke that Maroon 5 would be performing in the Super Bowl halftime show, comedian Amy Schumer began a crusade to force the band to reconsider the NFL's offer, publicly shaming them on social media and demanding that Maroon 5 "stand up for your brothers and sisters of color" by renouncing the gig until Colin Kaepernick is signed by an NFL team.
The shaming gave way to a Change.org petition that now has more than 78,000 signatures, begging the band to drop the Super Bowl.
In response to the petition, Maroon 5 insisted that they had not confirmed their appearance and that they could not comment on a situation that was still fluid.
“What the hell are you talking about? It’s a rumor. I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of this rumor”, Levine told media. “It’s definitely a rumor. And the rumor’s a rumor that everyone seems to be discussing. It’s the Super Bowl. It’s a great event and there’s gonna be a band performing … or an artist of some kind performing at halftime. And it’s gonna be great, regardless of who it is.”
Other artists, like Rihanna, have said they would turn down the gig if asked, unless Kaepernick finds his way onto a team — something that seemed unlikely a few months ago, but seems possible now that the Redskins are looking for a replacement QB who's played in the league more recently than 2015. Kaepernick's lawsuit against the NFL alleging collusion between team owners and the federal government — including President Donald Trump — is also, apparently, headed to the bargaining table.
But that doesn't mean filling the halftime slot is getting any easier.
"Nobody wants to be associated with it,” one NFL insider told Variety, which also reported that the NFL may be looking at other halftime options, including a parade of local acts.
It may not matter anyway. If the NFL's Colin Kaepernick problem is affecting its relationship with artists, it's also affecting its relationship with fans. Viewership for the Super Bowl was down almost by double digits last year. The 2017 Super Bowl was the least-watched Super Bowl since 2009.