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Super Bowl halftime hip-hop show noted social justice in NFL

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Hip-hop ruled the stage at Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.

Headliners say the celebration was a long time coming, and it’s one step in a continued push for equity, diversity and inclusion.

The halftime show was a combination of nostalgia and Black culture with hip-hop and rap artists from the 1990s and 2000s taking the stage.

Seeing the icons perform was entertaining but barely scratched the surface on the work needed for broader social justice not only in the NFL but also in the world.

“It’s crazy that it took all of this and all of this time for us to be recognized,” said rapper Dr. Dre in a interview in the days leading up to the performance.

The Super Bowl halftime show saw music icons Snoop Dog, Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige light up the stage.

Leslie Etienne, director of Africana studies at Indiana University Purdue Univeristy-Indianapolis, said the show was a glimpse back to his college years. “I was excited to see it they had a couple of surprises in there.”

Brian Richardson, the Indianapolis Colts director of diversity, equity and inclusion, said the show was something to party to. “You had culture on display in all of its finest.”

Sunday’s show was first in which the Super Bowl had hip-hop headliners. Dr. Dre had said, “We’re going to go on and do it so big that they can’t deny us anymore in the future.”

Their performances set the stage for a few conversations, and highlighted that 70% of NFL players are Black. The show also reignited talk about how the NFL and the country have bumped heads around issues of social justice, such as kneeling. Rapper Eminem took a knee at the end of his set.

The NFL has created initiatives to support change, but, Etienne at IUPUI said, we can’t let this moment be a pacifier. “Black joy is something that we get to have, so to see them on the stage, it still is wonderful, but I think we can still ask questions and still be very critical.”

Etienne said the reality and benefit of centering Black culture and Black civil rights is that a lot of other groups benefit from that work.

Richardson, who’s served in his role with the Colts for nearly two years, said everyone has a voice and part to play. “We’re going to chip away each step. I tell people when we’re having these conversations I may not be the one that sees the endgame.”