UPDATED: News that Travis Scott would be performing with Maroon 5 at the Super Bowl first leaked out in December, but three weeks passed before the performance was officially announced. That announcement only came after Scott announced that he and the NFL would donate $500,000 to the non-profit social-justice organization Dream Corps. The move was clearly intended to blunt the criticism Maroon 5 and particularly Scott had received for performing at the game, due largely to the league’s treatment of former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has essentially been banished from professional football for taking a knee during the pre-game performances of the national anthem, a move many feel is based in racism.
Scott and Kaepernick had at least one phone conversation before the rapper confirmed his Super Bowl appearance, sources tell Variety. A source close to Scott said that while the two did not necessarily agree, they emerged from the conversation with mutual respect and understanding, with the rapper taking the stance that everyone makes a statement in their own way and he felt that the money going toward Dream Corps, combined with the platform provided by the Super Bowl, will do some good. The source also said that Scott would not confirm his performance until the donation was locked in.
Kaepernick’s girlfriend, Nessa Dias, disputed that account of the conversation in a tweet Wednesday morning (which links to Complex’s re-report of Variety‘s article), although she did not deny it happened, as some reports initially implied. “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against @Kaepernick7 PERIOD. #stoplying,” she wrote. Later on Instagram, she seemed to turn her anger more directly toward Scott, writing, among other things, “If someone wants to work with the opposition then that’s on them, BUT DO NOT have your team lie to reporters to insinuate Colin was okay with anyone working against him. PERIOD”
Kaepernick himself retweeted an earlier tweet from Hot 97 host Ebro Darden in which he said, “Kap did not approve this bullsh–! Get the f— outta here,” although nowhere in this article does it say that Kaepernick approved of Scott’s decision.
Reps for Kaepernick and Scott declined Variety‘s requests for comment.
— NESSA (@nessnitty) January 16, 2019
Scott’s comments were similar to the ones he made in his statement announcing the donation. “I back anyone who takes a stand for what they believe in,” he said. “I know being an artist that it’s in my power to inspire. So before confirming the Super Bowl Halftime performance, I made sure to partner with the NFL on this important donation. I am proud to support Dream Corps and the work they do that will hopefully inspire and promote change.”
After the three performers were confirmed, a petition helmed by Change.org demanding that Maroon 5 cancel their performance, which had collected nearly 85,000 signatures, was updated to request that all three take a knee during the halftime performance. “It appears these artists aren’t backing out at this point. So now what?,” the petition reads. “There’s one way they can still redeem their reputation with their fans. Maroon 5, Travis Scott and Big Boi: take a knee during your set.”
Scott came under intense criticism almost immediately after word of his halftime-show appearance leaked: Sources said Jay-Z was attempting to talk him out of it, and both rapper Meek Mill and the Rev. Al Sharpton publicly criticized him for it. “I think anyone that goes into the halftime show is in effect directly violating those that want to raise the question that the NFL should come to terms with what they have done and continue to do to Colin Kaepernick and those that protest on criminal justice issues,” Sharpton said.
Dream Corps, founded by founded by CNN commentator Van Jones in 2014, has a broadly defined mission “to help cutting-edge initiatives grow big enough to impact millions of lives. Our slogan is ‘21st-century jobs, not jails.’ We support economic, environmental and criminal justice innovators – all under one roof. Our shared platform helps leaders create synergies, leapfrog obstacles and maximize impact. Every day, we are reshaping “what’s possible” in the field of social justice.”
The organization has a close affiliation with Kim Kardashian West, sister of Kylie Jenner with whom Scott shares a daughter. Contributing to Variety last fall, Kardashian West hailed Jones for “[creating] opportunities for people who have been wronged by our flawed justice system.” The two traveled together with Dream Corps to the White House last fall to speak to President Donald Trump, a meeting that resulted in clemency being granted to 63-year-old Alice Marie Johnson, who had served 22 years of a life sentence for a non-violent drug offense. Kardashian had cited Johnson’s case in her advocacy for sentencing reform. (Worth noting: on Jan. 16, Kaepernick retweeted a comment which read, “In 2016, The NFL also committed cash to Dream Corps in the Players Coalition deal brokered by Malcolm Jenkins. Dream Corps now in two NFL #PaidToNotProtest schemes.”)
As for the Super Bowl, former Outkast member Big Boi, an Atlanta native who was long reported to be in talks for the performance, will also appear following weeks of outreach to various acts of color to perform with Maroon 5, and it is perhaps no coincidence that all three artists appearing on the halftime show are affiliated with the same management company, Full Stop.