HOUSTON — The Super Bowl is the most-watched television program in America, and the halftime show is the most-watched 12 minutes of entertainment, which offers a unique opportunity for performers. Given that ads for Super Bowl LI are running in the $5 million-per-30-seconds range, the halftime show is well north of $100 million worth of publicity for a performer: time enough to move some serious product … or speak one’s mind to the largest audience imaginable.
The primary question surrounding the performance of Lady Gaga, an outspoken advocate of Hillary Clinton, equality and LGBT causes, is this: will she use her 12 minutes on America’s bully pulpit to denounce new president Donald Trump?
Earlier this month, Entertainment Weekly used an anonymous source to claim the NFL had forbidden Gaga from talking about Trump while onstage. The NFL fired back with the speed of a Tom Brady spiral: “This is unsourced nonsense from people trying to stir up controversy where there is none,” NFL spokesperson Natalie Ravitz said in a statement. “Lady Gaga is focused on putting together an amazing show for fans and we love working with her on it; we aren’t going to be distracted by this.”
It’s worth noting that the NFL takes its halftime performances exceedingly seriously, to the point that it filed a $16.6 million suit against singer M.I.A. for flipping the bird during the 2012 halftime show. (The suit was settled in 2014.) Stung by a string of less-than-family-entertainment-level performances, like Janet Jackson’s infamous “Nipplegate” exposure in 2004, the last time the Super Bowl was in Houston, the NFL requires performers to sign a contract stipulating adherence to the league’s standards of decorum.
Then again, there may be no issue at all. EW again quoted “an insider” – which, technically, could be someone who’s inside the state boundaries of Texas – as saying that Gaga is “not even interested” in commenting on President Trump. Take that anonymous report for all it’s worth, particularly given that it’s about a singer whose most famous tune is entitled “Poker Face.”
Of course, it’s also possible to make a political statement without necessarily mentioning the president by name. It’s also easy to guess what would happen if Gaga took an anti-Trump stance: her supporters would take pride in what she’d done and retweet GIFs to the heavens, while Trump’s supporters would decry an out-of-touch liberal elite entertainer speaking her mind. Two hundred million eyes would watch, and zero minds would be changed.
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Jay Busbee is a writer for Yahoo Sports and the author of EARNHARDT NATION, on sale now at Amazon or wherever books are sold. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or find him on Twitter or on Facebook.