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Did the NFL ask Eminem not to kneel? What we know about Super Bowl halftime show claims
Eminem kneels during the halftime performance at the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, Feb. 13, 2022. (AP) Eminem kneels during the halftime performance at the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, Feb. 13, 2022. (AP)

Eminem kneels during the halftime performance at the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals, Feb. 13, 2022. (AP)

Samantha Putterman
By Samantha Putterman February 15, 2022

After he finished "Lose Yourself" on the Super Bowl halftime show stage, rapper Eminem bowed his head and dropped to his knee as Dr. Dre seated himself at a piano and performed some of Tupac's "I Ain't Mad at Cha."

It was one of several moves that had people talking about the hip-hop show well beyond the Los Angeles Rams’ victory. Some social media posts went further to say that the NFL tried to prevent Eminem from taking a knee.

"Eminem was told he couldn't kneel (even tho it was to pay homage to Tupac), but he knelt anyway," one viral Facebook post said. "Snoop was told that he couldn't have a blue bandana in his back pocket, so he wore an entire blue bandana outfit, crip walked, and threw up his set. Dre was told that he had to take out the negative references to police in his lyrics, but he left it in anyway. All of these artistic expressions reflect the reality of the Black experience in America, and I loved it."

"The NFL has the AUDACITY to ask the performers to censor themselves," another post read. "They asked Dr. Dre to censor his lyrics on the police .... he didn't. They told Eminem he couldn't kneel....The GOAT MF KNEELED during his performance.... They asked snoop not to crip walk.... But he did it anyways…"

But the NFL has disputed that it tried to intervene to stop Eminem from kneeling. Claims that it did appear to stem from a news website that relied on anonymous sources.

These posts were flagged on Facebook as part of the platform’s efforts to combat misinformation. (Read more about our partnership with Meta, Facebook’s parent company.)

We set out to get more answers. But so far, none of the music artists have commented on the performance, and key people involved did not return our queries for comment.

Claims that the NFL tried to censor the show first appeared in a Feb. 13 story by news website Puck News. Reporter Eriq Gardner cited an unnamed source who said the league had gone back and forth with Dr. Dre about anti-police lyrics and "nixed" Eminem’s plan to kneel:

"A source close to the artist complained that Dre was being ‘disgustingly censored.’ How? The league apparently didn’t want its premier event to turn into a divisive culture war moment. In particular, I’m told, N.F.L. representatives indicated to Dre during rehearsals that they weren’t comfortable with a lyric from his signature 1999 hit, ‘Still D.R.E.,’ which states that he’s ‘still not loving police.’" 

"… At one point, the NFL told Dre he couldn’t say the line at all, but as of this writing, Dre is optimistic that ‘police’ might make the cut of ‘accepted’ lyrics. Meanwhile, the league nixed a plan by Eminem to kneel, Colin Kaepernick-style. Organizers also flagged something that Snoop Dogg was set to wear as possibly appearing gang-related. (Asked about new limitations placed on halftime performers, a spokesperson for the league did not respond.)"

Dre ended the show with "Still Dre" and included the line about the police. Eminem took a knee, without explaining whether it was to honor the memory of Tupac or evoke the sideline gesture by former quarterback Colin Kaepernick to protest against police brutality and racial discrimination.

The performance was produced by Roc Nation, an entertainment and sports company led by Jay-Z. So far, the company hasn’t confirmed whether the NFL tried to impose any rules. Roc Nation did not reply to our request for comment. 

The NFL refuted Puck’s reporting. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the New York Times that the league knew about Eminem’s plan because officials "watched it during rehearsals this week."

The NFL hasn’t commented on the other requests that Puck reported. McCarthy did not respond to a PolitiFact email asking for more information.

The reporter for the Puck News story, Eriq Gardner, pushed back on the NFL’s denial on Twitter.

But Gardner does not indicate where he got the information in his story and does not identify any sources. Puck News did not respond to a request for comment.

There’s still a lot that remains unclear about what unfolded before the halftime show. We can’t say for sure until more of the people involved speak up. 

Meanwhile, if you see comments on social media about NFL censorship, know that independent fact-checkers are currently unable to verify or debunk them. We’ll update our report if that changes. 

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Did the NFL ask Eminem not to kneel? What we know about Super Bowl halftime show claims