artisteer/iStock(NEW YORK) — Around this time last year, Justin Timberlake was set to perform during the famed halftime show at Super Bowl LII.
Fast forward 12 months and the show that used to be one of the biggest gigs in the music industry is now reportedly struggling to book talent.
Timberlake was announced as the headliner in October of 2017 and as of mid-December, rumored headliner Maroon 5 haven't publicly committed to the gig, though reports have them taking the stage in Atlanta on Feb. 3.
With the big game just six weeks away, it's somewhat shocking that no official announcement has been made.
The Kaepernick effect
Former 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick started taking a knee in 2016 during the National Anthem to protest racial oppression in the United States.
His divisive protest quickly caught fire and had hundreds of other players doing the same.
Reactions from NFL team owners, players and fans were mixed, as some felt like it was a dig at U.S. vets, while others felt it was a peaceful way to bring Kaepernick's message to light.
And while this had a viral effect on the NFL in 2016 and 2017, and is still ongoing today, why is the Super Bowl halftime show suffering now?
Well, the easiest answer is Kaepernick, who was thrust back into national discussion for not only still being unsigned, but also becoming part of Nike's new advertising push.
In September, Nike announced that the former NFL star and activist would be the face of the "Just Do It" campaign.
But it's not just about Kaepernick.
Variety's senior music editor Jem Aswad says it's much more than just about Kaepernick, though that is certainly a major driving force.
"There's always drama associated with the halftime performance," he told ABC News.
This year, in addition to Kaepernick being vaulted back into the spotlight, Aswad points out that the game is being held in Atlanta, a city known for its rich history steeped in legendary black music.
"They had TLC, they had Usher, as well as Jermaine Dupri, who had Criss Cross and others, Atlanta is a juggernaut right now," he said. "There are so many [now and dating back decades], I'd almost be reluctant to rattle them off."
"They had this opportunity to celebrate Atlanta music with the Super Bowl Halftime show and what do we get, Maroon 5. This really isn't a diss at Maroon 5," he stressed. "Nothing against Maroon 5!"
Aswad said the NFL really missed the boat in celebrating the culture of the city where the big game is taking place with an all-white rock group.
The music editor added that with the positioning of the game in Atlanta, the controversy surrounding Kaepernick does come back up, as his protest is a "loaded topic," especially in the "black entertainment community."
"Some of the artists who have been approached either with Maroon 5 or before them … they are trying to balance the lineup with ideally a black performer from Atlanta, but we keep hearing they are getting, 'No's,'" Aswad added. "Rihanna reportedly turned them down, Cardi B has supposedly been going back and forth, we hear they are talking to Lauren Hill, we heard they are talking to Usher."
He doesn't think this has ever happened and that the show has not been set in the modern era so late in the game.
"I feel kind of bad for Maroon 5, they think they get this great opportunity and the reaction has been probably not what they would have hoped," he added.
Maroon 5 STILL not confirmed?
It was as early as October that outlets like Rolling Stone magazine and Aswad at Variety were reporting that A-list stars, like the aforementioned Rihanna, were turning down the halftime gig because their values didn't align with the NFL.
In November, Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine spoke to Ellen DeGeneres and said about his band taking on the show: "I can neither confirm nor deny the truth of this rumor. It's definitely a rumor and the rumor is a rumor that everyone seems to be discussing."
"Whoever does it is probably equal parts nervous and excited," he added, but noted, "This is all speculative because I don't know who I'm talking about!"
Despite the lack of confirmation from Levine, there's a petition on Change.org that has almost 75,000 signatures asking the band to drop out.
A request for comment from Maroon 5's rep was not immediately returned to ABC News.
Weeks out and still no official word.
While there are a slew of unconfirmed reports on the halftime gig, absolutely no one has gone on the record and confirmed anything.
"Any act that would perform alongside Maroon 5 is effectively co-signing the NFL," Aswad told ABC News.
Variety and Aswad reported over the weekend that Cardi B, who collaborated on a hit with the band and will be in Atlanta during the airing of the show in February, is also on the fence and hasn't confirmed or denied that she's been offered a role in the halftime show.
And while we don't know if Cardi will join Maroon 5 on stage, other artists like Post Malone and Bruno Mars will be in town around that time for other shows.
In fact, Malone will be joining Aerosmith for a pre-game concert days before as part of the Super Bowl week celebrations.
That doesn't mean they'll head over to Mercedes-Benz Stadium to possibly join Maroon 5 … that's if Maroon 5 even perform themselves.
What about the Anthem?
Last year it was P!nk performing a rendition of the national anthem that left millions with chills and feelings of American pride.
This year, while the halftime gig is the talk of the town, no one has mentioned the anthem, which still doesn't have a performer.
So, while the teams are starting to plan for the playoffs with two weeks left in the regular season, the biggest game of the year is without an "official" halftime show and singer for the national anthem.
Only time will tell how the NFL and Atlanta fill that very large void.
The NFL did not immediately return ABC News' request for comment.

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