Eminem Takes a Knee During the Super Bowl Halftime Show

INGLEWOOD, Calif.—Rap icon Eminem took a knee during the Super Bowl halftime performance Sunday, a gesture that echoed the protests launched by Colin Kaepernick against racial injustice that roiled the National Football League for years. 

Eminem’s gesture, midway through America’s most-watched television event, came at a particularly sensitive moment for the NFL after a recently fired coach sued the league and several teams over alleged racial discrimination in its hiring practices. 

The halftime show during the game between the Los Angeles Rams and Cincinnati Bengals, which the Rams were leading 13-10, featured an array of hip-hop acts. In addition to Eminem, legends such as Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar performed. 

After performing his song “Lose Yourself,” Eminem took an extended knee with his head bowed.  

That came after at least two Rams players, safeties Terrell Burgess and Nick Scott, could be seen kneeling during the national anthem before the game. They had done on previous occasions as well. 

NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league had no issues with the kneeling and that the league had seen Eminem do it multiple times in rehearsals. He added that no player has been disciplined by the league for kneeling because it is not in violation of any league rules. 

Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, sent the football world into chaos in 2016 when he first sat and then kneeled during the national anthem to protest issues such as police brutality. Supporters hailed him for using his platform as a football star to raise attention to injustices. Critics assailed the protests as unpatriotic. 

At least two Rams players, safeties Terrell Burgess and Nick Scott, could be seen kneeling during the national anthem.



The movement turned the country’s most popular sport into a political lightning rod. Former president

Donald Trump

was among the most vociferous critics of both the protests and the league’s handling of the matter, which put the NFL in an unusual dispute with the leader of the country. One weekend, players across the league knelt en masse in a direct rebuke of remarks made by Trump. 

Kaepernick, who has gone unsigned since after the 2016 season when he started the movement, filed a since-settled grievance against the NFL and its teams alleging they effectively blackballed him because of his outspoken political views. The league at one point hastily enacted a policy banning kneeling—only to suspend the policy before it was ever used during a game after backlash from the players union. 

The issue became sensitive again in 2020 when national protests against systemic racism swept the country. That year, NFL commissioner

Roger Goodell

put out a striking video in which he apologized for not listening to players earlier on the issue and encouraged peaceful protest. 

Right before this Super Bowl, the topic roared back to life. Recently fired Miami Dolphins coach

Brian Flores

sued the league and three teams on Feb. 1 alleging Black coaches are racially discriminated against in the job market. His lawsuit accused teams of giving him sham interviews and brought renewed attention to a concern that had been lingering for years. 

While the NFL dismissed the lawsuit as meritless, league officials have repeatedly conceded before and after the suit that the racial diversity of the top figures in management can improve. Goodell, this week, said the league will weigh options to improve the outcomes because the current policies have fallen short. 

“If it requires an overhaul, you do it,” Goodell said. “Obviously, we haven’t been successful to date.”

Write to Andrew Beaton at andrew.beaton@wsj.com

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