Ahead of the Super Bowl LVI halftime show this weekend, Roc Nation CEO Desiree Perez reflected on the company’s relationship and history with the NFL.

The halftime show this year is presented and produced by Roc Nation and Pepsi, so Perez was involved with the decision to have Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Eminem, Mary J. Blige, and Kendrick Lamar headline. The latest event to make use of the NFL’s partnership with Roc Nation, which stirred controversy when it was inked in 2019, the halftime show comes as the NFL faces more accusations of racism.

At the start of the month, ex-Dolphins coach Brian Flores sued the NFL and its teams for allegedly racist hiring practices. When Roc Nation entered into a partnership with the NFL, it came not long after Colin Kaepernick was effectively blacklisted from playing in the league after he protested against racial injustice and police brutality. The deal between the NFL and Roc Nation garnered criticism from some.

"It was more than a rough patch," Perez told the Los Angeles Times in a new interview. "And it was a difficult decision for us. They were being accused of all these terrible things that we stand against. We had to say, ‘Wow, they’re being boycotted by artists.' ... But we obviously decided for going after what we feel is right and what we think we can do to make change. Let’s say for a second that this was a cynical move by the NFL—they just wanted to use us. OK. As long as we can go in and do things they would not normally do—if we can reach people that we normally wouldn’t reach with a message—then that for us is success." 

When asked directly about the Flores lawsuit, she said that she “wouldn’t be shocked” that some owners in the NFL don’t “want a Black coach.” Perez added that she understands the contrast between the halftime show and the Flores lawsuit might come across as “mixed messaging,” but she believes there’s more to be gained by “keeping that chair in the room.”

“Maybe some people wish we would say, ‘We’re not gonna have anything to do with halftime unless you hire 10 Black coaches,’" she said. "But I don’t know that that’s realistic. ... I want to keep that position that I have to make that phone call. If tomorrow I find out something crazy, then I can pick up the phone and say, ‘Excuse me, Roger, what is going on? Is that really your policy?’"

She explained that change, especially when it comes to the NFL, will take time and Roc Nation is not going to give up anytime soon. “We’ll take the harder, longer, rockier path, because this isn’t about walking away,” she said. “This isn’t about putting our heads down and saying we give up. This is about us speaking up and fighting back.”

The Super Bowl LVI is set for Sunday, Feb. 13 at the SoFi Stadium in Inglewood, California.