In 2019, the N.F.L. partnered with Roc Nation, the entertainment and sports company led by Jay-Z, in part to reinvigorate the Super Bowl halftime show and, as the league said in a statement announcing the deal, “to amplify the league’s social justice efforts.”
At this year’s halftime show, the third under Roc Nation’s guidance, Los Angeles rap icons Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Kendrick Lamar, as well as the singer Mary J. Blige delivered a lively performance. But it was the rapper Eminem who may have made the biggest statement of the night, and not with his voice: He knelt on one knee and held his head in his hand after performing “Lose Yourself,” his anthem about self-determination from the movie “8 Mile.”
The move was an apparent nod to the former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who took a knee during the playing of the national anthem during the 2016 season to protest police brutality and racial inequity. Other N.F.L. players followed suit, prompting debate within the league about whether those players should be penalized, and drawing rebuke from the president at the time, Donald J. Trump.
After Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract in 2017 and was unable to find another quarterbacking job, he accused the N.F.L. of colluding to blacklist him but settled the suit with the league in 2019.
The dispute led many artists to avoid the halftime show in support of Kaepernick.
A league spokesman, Brian McCarthy, said on Sunday that the N.F.L. was aware that Eminem was going to kneel because officials “watched it during rehearsals this week.”
McCarthy said that players, coaches and personnel were free to have taken a knee before Sunday’s game and that no one has been disciplined for taking a knee.
Roc Nation declined to comment on what Eminem intended to signal.