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Maroon 5's Adam Levine "expected" controversy over band's Super Bowl show decision

It wouldn't be the Super Bowl without a star-studded halftime show. But the NFL was without a headliner until less than three weeks ago when Maroon 5 was officially announced. They were immediately caught in the crossfire of the NFL's controversial new anthem policy: requiring players to now stand or stay in the locker room during the national anthem.

In his only interview, Maroon 5 front man Adam Levine said a lot of introspection went into his decision to perform amid controversy. 

"When you look back on every single Super Bowl halftime show… it's this like insatiable urge to hate a little bit. I'm not in the right profession if I can't handle a little bit of controversy," Levine told spoke with "Entertainment Tonight" co-host Kevin Frazier. "We expected it, we'd like to move on from it… and speak through the music."

Frazier said he spoke to "many people" before making his decision.

"Most importantly though, when I silenced all the noise, listened to myself and made my decision based on how I felt," Levine said.

There are reports that Rihanna and Cardi B turned down the high-profile gig in a show of solidarity with Colin Kaepernick. The former 49ers quarterback took a knee during the national anthem to protest racial inequality.

A petition garnered more than 100,000 signatures asking Maroon 5 to drop out of the show.  

Usually the halftime headliner holds a big pre-Super Bowl press conference. But that was canceled this year, leading some to speculate the NFL was trying to avoid confronting the controversy.

The controversy also reportedly made it difficult to book guest artists. The league eventually announced the band will share the stage with rappers Big Boi and Travis Scott – as a nod to Atlanta's rich hip hop legacy.

Scott took heat from fans for signing on but did so only after the NFL agreed to join him in a making a half million dollar donation to a social justice organization. 

"He's the man right now, and he comes in hot," Levine said. "This is the show that's going to have the biggest hip hop presence that's there has ever been on the show."

Mixing irresistible hooks with funk has translated into two decades of success for Maroon 5. The band has sold over 53 million albums and had nine No. 1 singles. They set the record for the most chart toppers by a group in the 20-year history of Billboard's Top 40.

Their latest hit, Grammy-nominated "Girls Like You," celebrates powerful women including activists and entrepreneurs. The video is nearing two billion views online as the message resonates in the Me Too era.

"That video was really one of the most amazing projects I think I've ever been a part of in my life. We love the life that it gave the song beyond just a silly pop song. It kind of gathered a new meaning from the video," Levine said. "And it's great to be playing -- potentially be playing the song at the Super Bowl."

With an audience of more than 100 million watching, there's a lot of pressure to get it right.

"We're in Atlanta, we're so close to where Dr. [Martin Luther] King was born and raised. What do you say to the folks who say that they just want to be heard, and how will your performance speak to that?" Frazier asked.

"They will be. That's all I want to say, because I don't want to spoil anything," Levine said. "I'd like to think that people know where I stand as a human being after two decades of doing this… I'm not a public speaker. I do speak, but it's through the music."

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