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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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Joe Faraoni/ESPN Images(NEW YORK) -- Former WNBA star Lisa Leslie took her talents to the small screen and made a guest appearance on an episode of ABC's Speechless.

In the episode, which aired on Dec. 14, Leslie played character Kenneth Clements' sister.

Watch a clip from her appearance on the sitcom below:

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Sunday’s sports events:

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Brooklyn 144, Atlanta 127
Philadelphia 128, Cleveland 105
Indiana 110, NY Knicks 99
Washington 128, L.A. Lakers 110
Sacramento 120, Dallas 113
Miami 102, New Orleans 96
Denver 95, Toronto 86

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
OT Vegas 4, NY Rangers 3
Carolina 3, Arizona 0
Calgary 7, St. Louis 2
Buffalo 4, Boston 2
OT Winnipeg 5, Tampa Bay 4
San Jose 7, Chicago 3
Vancouver 4, Edmonton 2

NATIONAL FOOTBALL LEAGUE
Tennessee 17, NY Giants 0
Baltimore 20, Tampa Bay 12
Chicago 24, Green Bay 17
Buffalo 14, Detroit 13
Minnesota 41, Miami 17
Cincinnati 30, Oakland 16
Atlanta 40, Arizona 14
Indianapolis 23, Dallas 0
Washington 16, Jacksonville 13
OT San Francisco 26, Seattle 23
Pittsburgh 17, New England 10
Philadelphia 30, L.A. Rams 23

TOP-25 COLLEGE BASKETBALL
(9) Michigan St. 104, Green Bay 83
(24) Houston 68, Saint Louis 64

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iStock(SALT LAKE CITY) -- The Winter Olympics may be making a return to Salt Lake City -- at least the U.S. Olympic Committee hopes so.

The USOC announced on Friday evening that they have chosen Utah's capital to pitch to the International Olympic Committee as a host for the 2030 Games. Salt Lake City was chosen over Denver. For now, the USOC is still referring to Salt Lake City as the U.S.'s choice for a "potential" 2030 bid.

"I'd like to thank Denver and Salt Lake City, and their respective leadership teams, for participating in this process and their commitment to make the Olympic and Paralympic movements stronger," USOC Chair Larry Probst said in a statement. "We're incredibly lucky to have multiple able and willing cities to choose from, but in the end, we believe Salt Lake City will give us the best chance to return the winter Games to the U.S."

It's not yet clear what international cities Salt Lake City will be competing against. The selection will not be made by the IOC until 2023.

Salt Lake City hosted the Winter Games in 2002. It was the first U.S. city to host the Winter Olympics since Lake Placid, New York, in 1980 -- famously highlighted by the U.S. men's ice hockey's "Miracle on Ice" team.

The U.S. has hosted the Winter Games four times: 1932 (Lake Placid), 1960 (Squaw Valley, California), 1980 (Lake Placid) and 2002 (Salt Lake City). Denver, beaten out as this year's U.S. representative, was actually named as host for the 1976 Games by the IOC, before withdrawing four years beforehand.

The 2002 Games, less than six months after Sept. 11, went off without a hitch despite serious security concerns. Mitt Romney, the CEO of the Salt Lake Organizing Committee, was hailed worldwide for his effort in bringing the games to reality after rescuing them from a financial crisis. He used the goodwill as a launching point in his political career, serving as governor of Massachusetts from 2003 to 2007, and running for president in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

Romney just won a midterm election to be named senator from Utah. He hailed the selection of Salt Lake City for the USOC's candidate for the 2030 Games.

Beijing was named as host for the 2022 Winter Olympics, while the host for the 2026 Games has yet to be selected. The IOC will be choosing between Stockholm and Italy's two-city bid of Milan and Cortina d'Ampezzo.

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iStock(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Friday’s  sports events:

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Boston 129, Atlanta 108
OT N.Y. Knicks 126, Charlotte 124
Milwaukee 114, Cleveland 102
Brooklyn 125, Washington 118
Indiana 113, Philadelphia 101
Miami 100, Memphis 97
Golden State 130, Sacramento 125
Denver 109, Oklahoma City 98
Portland 128, Toronto 122

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
OT New Jersey 5, Vegas 4
Pittsburgh 5, Boston 3
OT Arizona 4, N.Y. Rangers 3
Ottawa 4, Detroit 2
SO Washington 6, Carolina 5
OT St. Louis 4, Colorado 3
OT Winnipeg 4, Chicago 3
Edmonton 4, Philadelphia 1

Copyright © 2018, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.

(NEW YORK) -- Here are the scores from Friday’s  sports events:

NATIONAL BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION
Boston 129, Atlanta 108
OT N.Y. Knicks 126, Charlotte 124
Milwaukee 114, Cleveland 102
Brooklyn 125, Washington 118
Indiana 113, Philadelphia 101
Miami 100, Memphis 97
Golden State 130, Sacramento 125
Denver 109, Oklahoma City 98
Portland 128, Toronto 122

NATIONAL HOCKEY LEAGUE
OT New Jersey 5, Vegas 4
Pittsburgh 5, Boston 3
OT Arizona 4, N.Y. Rangers 3
Ottawa 4, Detroit 2
SO Washington 6, Carolina 5
OT St. Louis 4, Colorado 3
OT Winnipeg 4, Chicago 3
Edmonton 4, Philadelphia 1
 



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Photo by Phil Ellsworth / ESPN Images(NEW ORLEANS) -- After he set the NFL career passing yards record earlier this season, New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees set out to do something special to recognize all of the players who played a part in the record.

So, he surprised nearly 200 former teammates, coaches and mentors with commemorative footballs this week.

"I wanted to do something for everybody," Brees said. "You just start thinking about all the guys that had a hand in that."

Among the big names who received a football from Brees, former San Diego Chargers teammate LaDainian Tomlinson, ex-Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks (now playing for the Los Angeles Chargers), and Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner (Turner's Panthers are the Saints' next opponent).

Brees credited Saints general manager Mickey Loomis, and members of the communications staff with putting together a list of teammates and tracking down addresses and other information. The 39-year-old initially wanted to honor every player who had ever caught a pass from him, but said he then thought about every offensive lineman who blocked for him and every coach he has had.

"It was actually a long list," Brees said. "But I just wanted to do that for them."

One other person who received the gift was Dr. James Andrews, who performed surgery on Brees' shoulder in 2006.

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4kodiak/iStock(NEW YORK) -- The United States Olympic Committee has selected Salt Lake City to represent the U.S. in a potential bid for the 2030 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games.

Salt Lake City and Denver were the two finalists to represent the U.S. after Reno/Tahoe, Nevada dropped out of the running. In a press release, USOC Chair Larry Probst said Salt Lake City was eventually chosen because "we believe Salt Lake City will give us the best chance to return the winter Games to the U.S."

The Utah capital hosted the 2002 Winter Games.

The International Olympic Committee will choose the host city for the 2030 Games. It is not yet clear when the IOC will make that decision.

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Photo by Allen Kee / ESPN Images(PHILADELPHIA) -- Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz is likely done for the remainder of the season, head coach Doug Pederson admitted Friday, after he was diagnosed with a stress fracture in his back.

Wentz saw his rookie season end early last year, following a torn ACL. Backup quarterback Nick Foles took over for Wentz last year and led Philadelphia to a Super Bowl win. Foles is expected to take the reins in Wentz' absence.

Pederson says Wentz will travel with the team this weekend andis listed as doubtful to play.

The fracture in Wentz' back was discovered on a scan earlier this week, after the second-year quarterback was limited at practice due to back soreness. Pederson insists there will be no long-term issues for Wentz following his recovery, which should take about three weeks and will not require surgery.

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stevanovicigor/iStock(PHOENIX) -- One day after reports that he had threatened to move the the team elsewhere, Phoenix Suns owner Robert Sarver said Thursday he is fully committed to keeping the team in place.

"I am 100 percent all-in in keeping this team right here where we stand," Sarver said in a video message posted to Twitter. "And I want to make sure that message comes across crystal clear to every one of you."

Earlier in the week, the Phoenix City Council delayed a vote on more than $200 million in renovations to the team's stadium. The Arizona Republic reported Wednesday that Sarver had recently contacted a member of the council threatening to move the team to Seattle or Las Vegas if the renovation deal wasn't approved.

On Friday, Suns president Jason Rowley released a statement that indicated the team has had no discussions with any other city about potential relocation.

Sarver has said he is looking to build a "first-class" practice facility in addition to improving the arena. The vote on those renovations will now be held on January 23.

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33ft/iStock(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Former University of Maryland football coach D.J. Durkin has been working with the University of Alabama coaching staff this week, ahead of the Crimson Tide's College Football Playoff game.

Durkin was fired by the University of Maryland in October after two investigations into the program -- focusing on the death of offensive lineman Jordan McNair and the culture Durkin had created.

Alabama head coach Nick Saban has invited a number of former head coaches to spend time with the Alabama staff in recent years, including Hugh Freeze, Chip Kelly, Lane Kiffin, Butch Jones, Steve Sarkisian and Rich Rodriguez. Freeze, Kelly and Kiffin all eventually received head coaching jobs elsewhere after working with Alabama, while Jones, Kiffin and Sarkisian each ended up on the Alabama coaching staff.

Sources told ESPN that Durkin has not been hired in any capacity, and was solely offering input ahead of Alabama's game against Oklahoma on December 29. ESPN also says Durkin has met with multiple NFL teams since his firing to "watch tape and offer input."

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