Jay-Z and Beyoncé taking a seat during the Super Bowl national anthem wasn’t quite the political statement fans thought it was.
TMZ posted video Sunday of Beyoncé, Jay-Z and daughter Blue Ivy sitting during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” Many took their positions as a political statement, but in a discussion at Columbia University on Tuesday, Jay-Z set the record straight.
“It actually wasn’t (a political statement). Sorry,” he said as the audience laughed. “It really wasn’t. What happened was it was not premeditated at all.”
During the Super Bowl video, Lovato was well into the “rockets’ red glare” portion of the song, as the famous family sat in their seats. The music mogul spoke on the importance of “context,” reminding listeners they had only seen a video clip without background information or comment from the Knowles-Carter crew.
“TMZ can tell you anything without speaking to me,” he said. “If it was me, I’d say, ‘Yes, that’s what I’ve done.’ I think people know that about me.”
Jay-Z explained that they arrived just as gospel singer Yolanda Adams was about to perform “America the Beautiful” and, as co-producer of the halftime show, he immediately jumped into “artist mode,” making last-minute sound adjustments and commenting on the performance to his wife.
“The whole time we’re sitting there, we’re talking about the performance,” he explained. “Then right after that, Demi (Lovato) comes out and we’re talking about how beautiful she looked and how she sounds and what she’s going through in her life and to be on the stage, we’re so proud of her.”
He said it wasn’t until a phone call after Lovato’s national anthem performance that he realized what the situation looked like. But Jay-Z promises their seating arrangement wasn’t done on purpose – he and Beyoncé wouldn’t put their 8-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy, in that position.
“It just happened,” he concluded, noting that his team had already made efforts to make political stances at the Super Bowl. “We were making the loudest sound. I didn’t have to make a silent protest. When you look at the stage, the artists that we chose: Looking at Colombian (Shakira), Puerto Rican JLo.”
Jay-Z, a co-producer of the halftime show featuring Shakira and Jennifer Lopez, announced last year that his Roc Nation company was partnering with the NFL for events and social justice programs.
The rapper received immediate backlash since he had been a big supporter of Colin Kaepernick, who sparked a fissure in the league when he decided to kneel when the national anthem was played before games to protest the killing of unarmed African-Americans by police and other social inequalities.
“We were making a louder stance” with a diverse cast of female artists and a commercial geared toward social injustice, he added. “Given the context, I didn’t have to make a silent protest.”
Contributing: Susan Haas, USA TODAY and the Associated Press.