Rihanna‘s Super Bowl LVII halftime show made headlines for a number of reasons, not the least of which was the singer’s surprise pregnancy reveal. But, according to a long list of comments received by the Federal Communication Commission, it also resulted in more than 100 complaints from across the country about what some viewers deemed an overly sexual performance.
“Inappropriate touching and dance moves, very raunchy for a family to watch. Little kids do not need to see this,” read one note from a complainant in Rockton, Illinois, even as another described it as “sick sick sick.” A number of other notes referred to “sexualization, genital grabbing, sniffing of her fingers,” as well as “gyrating… and rear end… grabbing,” “filth,” “perpetual air humping… glorifying being a stripper” and a description of dancers “holding their hands up the cracks of their butts and pumping,” in a note from Plainwell, Michigan that misidentified the performer as Shakira; the latter shared the stage with Jennifer Lopez in 2020 in a performance that, not for nothing, derw more than 1,000 FCC complaints.
One all caps screed from Depew, New York went deep, with the writer lamenting, “FRIENDS AND FAMILY GATHER TO WATCH THE SUPERBOWL. WHY DO WE CONTINUE TO HAVE TO BLACK NOISE YEAR AFTER YEAR. THEY CAN’T SING OR WRITE ANY DESCENT MUSIC. ALL I HEARD WAS WORD WORD WORD WORD WORD WORD WORD WORDWORD WORD WORD WORDG. BLACK BLACK BLACK BLACK AND GO DOWN ON ME, GO DOWN ON ME GO DOWN ON ME OR GO DOWN ON YOU ETC. I DEFINATELY [sic] DON’T CONSIDER THIS MUSIC., AND I DON’T APPRECIATE SEEING HER AND HER DANCERS GRABBING THEIR CROTCHES ON NATIONAL TV!. THE NFL SHOULD BE ASHAMED OF WHAT THESE 1/2 TIME SHOWS HAVE BECOME.”
Another one from Brush Prairie, Washington pleaded, “Can we please have a half time show where the artist doesn’t grab their crotch or try to dry hump the lead singer. I really don’t want to see 30 back up dancers doing pelvic thrusts. Ew. Also, twerking should rank up there with the F bomb,” while a viewer from Colorado Springs, Colorado suggested, “If I were to go to a place where children were present and did these same motions, I would probably be arrested. Therefore, I don’t see how it is fair for it to happen on television against our will and without warning. Quite infuriated that things like this continue to be
Yet another from Ellicott City, Maryland, said they were literally sickened by the show, writing, “The halftime show was disgusting. Scratching your crotch and anus and the sniffing your fingers makes me puke. The devil sequence was blatantly anti Christian and so inappropriate. Why is this trash allowed on television?”
And while a handful of complaints were focused on the commenters calling the game and the ASL interpreter, nearly all were squarely focused on RihRih’s performance and the writers’ beliefs that the content was not family friendly.
At press time a spokesperson for the NFL declined to comment for this story and a spokesperson for halftime show producer Roc Nation had not returned a request for comment.
The Super Bowl halftime show is no stranger to controversy and pearl-clutching complaints, from those who were offended by Eminem taking a knee during the 2022 show to viewers overstimulated by the site of Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine’s nipples in 2019, and, of course, the many complaints following the 2004 show where Justin Timberlake exposed Janet Jackson’s nipple in an incident dubbed “Nipplegate.”