Respect Diversity + Inclusion

J-Lo and Shakira’s Super Bowl halftime performance seen as win for diversity

Pepsi Super Bowl LIV Halftime Show Performers Jennifer Lopez and Shakira hold a press conference at the Hilton Miami Downtown. Getty Images

Story at a glance

  • Jennifer Lopez (J-Lo) and Shakira are set to perform alongside one another in this Sunday’s Super Bowl halftime show.
  • Although Gloria Estefan, Arturo Sandoval and Christina Aguilera have all been featured in the past, this is the first time that two Latinas are headlining the show.
  • This year’s game is being called the “most Hispanic yet,” with the addition of Grammy-award-winning Los Tigres Del Norte to the opening of the Spanish language Super Bowl broadcast.

The CBS broadcast of last year’s Super Bowl between the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots was watched by about 98.2 million people, as reported by Nielsen. Though that might seem like a tremendous number, it’s actually the lowest scoring in its 53-year history — the fourth year in a row that ratings have fallen for the big game.

A few factors were doubtlessly in play, and though we can only speculate on what caused these consecutive ratings drops, could one of them perhaps be…boredom?

The New England Patriots won the game with a score of 13-3, not a close call by any standards. The game also took place in Atlanta, Ga. — a city comprised of a population that’s majority African American and a central location to the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s. So perhaps it’s not surprising that many feathers were ruffled when the halftime headliner was announced: all-white pop group Maroon 5. 

This year’s game, by contrast, takes us down farther south to Miami, Fla., to see the San Francisco 49ers and the Kansas City Chiefs duke it out. Sometimes called the Capital of Latin America, Miami’s population is more than 70 percent Hispanic or Latino. 

Perhaps the fact that this year’s Super Bowl will the first for the Chiefs in 50 years will help with ratings. We’re willing to wager that a historic performance from Latin American superstars Jennifer Lopez and Shakira won’t hurt either.

Diversity on stage

In 54 years of putting on the Super Bowl, this will be the first year that the historic halftime stage will see two Latinas headlining. To be fair, the halftime performers for the first several years were marching bands, eventually joined by singing talents such as the legendary Ella Fitzgerald and eventually New Kids on the Block. 

Lopez, who has won multiple Billboard awards and was recently nominated for a Golden Globe, is Puerto Rican and grew up in the Bronx, New York. She’s said that her Super Bowl halftime show performance will not only be a “perfect moment in my life” but a “great time for a Latina women to take the stage at the biggest all-American event, with everything that’s going on in the country right now.” 

Both women have said they see their performance as an opportunity to convey a message of strength for the community and for women. “Two Latinas doing this in this country at this time is just very empowering to us,” says Lopez. Lopez has also spearheaded humanitarian aid for Puerto Rico’s Hurricane Maria victims, and Shakira is in the middle of building her second tuition-free school for low-income students in her native Colombia. 

“It’s very important for us to convey a message of unity and also to show what a relevant force the Latin community is in this country,” says Shakira. The three-time Grammy award-winning singer is no stranger to large sports arenas, having performed at both the 2010 and 2014 World Cups. Colombian by origin, she grew up in Baranquilla, Colombia, and also lived in Miami for a time. 

Both performers have said that the performance will not only honor their Latino roots, but have alluded to a tribute they’ll pay to late NBA star Kobe Bryant, who passed away in a helicopter accident on Jan. 26. 

Joining them will be the legendary Mexican band El Los Tigres del Norte, who will be kicking off the Spanish broadcast in a special video performance. The norteño band from San José agreed to the video presentation in the hopes that having more Latinos on screen will send a broader message of inclusion.

The growth of Latin music in the U.S.

A study by Nielson found that in 2018 Latin music grew by nearly 50 percent, compared to 17 percent for the market as a whole. It’s still continuing to grow, and Latin music now makes up a fifth of all video streaming.

These numbers echo the demographic shift taking place in the U.S. From 2017 to 2022, the Hispanic population is expected to make up 58 percent of the population growth, representing more than 20 percent of the country’s population.

This growth of interest in Latin music has translated into big wins for artists in the category, such as flamenco queen Rosalía who just snatched her first Grammy and was nominated for Best New Artist, to Reggaeton All-Stars like Ozuna and Bad Bunny dominating the charts. Former bachata band vocalist Romeo Santos’ recent performance at MetLife Stadium made him the first Latin artist to headline there. An estimated 60,000 fans showed up and helped him set the venue’s highest single night gross, surpassing that of U2.

Diversity in the NFL

Just as wider demographics for the country continue to shift, so do those of football fans. The NFL reported that there are now 30.2 million Hispanic fans in the United States, an increase of 2 million since 2017.

“The league’s Hispanic fanbase has continued to grow rapidly,” said an NFL spokesperson, “and our outreach to the Hispanic community is an important year-round initiative.”

The growing number of Hispanic fans and the NFL’s decision to pick Latino artists for the halftime show are in direct contrast with the representation we will be seeing on the field, with the Miami Herald reporting that only 16 of the NFL’s 1,696 players in the 2018 season were of Hispanic origin. That’s less than 1 percent. 

An NFL spokesperson said the organization is working to build its player base from Latin backgrounds by holding events in Hispanic communities that “teach football skills, emphasize exercise and reinforce the importance of character in athletics and life,” according to the BBC. They concluded that the decision to focus on Latin acts at the Super Bowl could therefore be almost focused around recruitment — but not just of players.

“I think sports and music are the two things that can bring everybody together in a moment and we have that opportunity this Sunday,” Lopez said.