The last Sunday in January, and recently the first Sunday in February, has been famously known as Superbowl Sunday. Viewers all over the world tune in to see the NFL’s best teams clash for the Lombardi Trophy. Even those who do not know or care about football will watch for the heavily paid commercials, the halftime performance, or simply tradition. Sports should be a great time to take a short break from life and enjoy good entertainment. Recently though, it seems like the NFL has found itself right in the middle of political drama. During the 2016 season, then 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick infamously knelt during the national anthem, stating: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color” (NFL.com). As other players joined, the NFL soon faced strong opinions from citizens and public figures on both sides of the issue. Two years later, the 2018 season brought around failed proposals, continued protests, and a fiery campaign from Nike. As the Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots took the stage in Super Bowl 53, the drama was not far behind.
Before the gridiron championship, talks swirled in the headlines. A few weeks prior, Gladys Knight announced she would be singing the national anthem: “It is unfortunate that our National Anthem has been dragged into this debate. . .I am here to give the Anthem back its voice, to stand for that historic choice of words, the way it unites us when we hear it and to free it from the same prejudices and struggles I have fought long and hard for all my life.” Knight, hoping to reunite the nation with her influence, received some opposition. Some reports say people wanted Knight to mess up on the anthem as a form of protest. Don Lemon of CNN asked if she was worried about her career potentially getting tarnished the same way Chrisette Michele lost her fame after singing at President Trump’s inaugural ball. The Empress of Soul responded “Nothing good comes easy and I will hope they understand as I do that we have a better way to do this than to be all angry. . . For me it is about respect, there’s so many who have died for our country and many in my family who are in the services. If you listen to the lyric, you’ll understand we fought for along time. Not just wars, I protested myself.” (Epoch Times). On the other side of the aisle, top name artists including Rihanna, Cardi B, Usher, and Nicki Minaj turned down offers for the halftime show in order to support Kaepernick. And while viewers were upset that Spongebob’s ‘Sweet Victory’ got sidelined by ‘Sicko Mode’, the halftime show performers received more criticism. Maroon V, Travis Scott, and Big Boi, who made no statements regarding Kaepernick or the anthem when accepting the gig, received heavy criticism for their participation. All three artists were accused of “caring about their careers more than issues surrounding the nation” according to Kaepernick’s lawyer. In addition, the athlete’s girlfriend tweeted out “There is NO mutual respect and there is NO understanding for anyone working against [Kaepernick] PERIOD.” Claiming to stand up against oppression, these voices do not seem so kind hearted themselves. A performer should make the final decision whether they want to participate or not and should not receive criticism for a choice unrelated to another issue.
While the music performances surrounding the super bowl heavily involved politics, the advertisements strayed away from it. Every year, many people watch the big game to see whether the companies’ sales pitches are worth the expensive ad time. Some ads from recent years made big statements, such as Coca-Cola and Airbnb in 2017 who both included immigration and diversity into their commercials. This year, however, fans saw simple, non-political advertising. Nike made a big power move last September with their rehashed ‘Just Do It’ campaign, featuring the former pro athlete. Despite drawing heavy criticism from customers, the company’s stock took a positive trend. According to stock analyst Thomas Franck: “This premeditated move was another subtle but significant sign of Nike’s strength and confidence in its position in the marketplace.” While Nike felt comfortable with the gamble, other companies did not want to take the risk. Instead, they played it safe this year. This philosophy goes along well with the free market system in America. In the same way government does not interfere with distributors, they should focus on their product and avoid political matters.
People should not be afraid to exercise their first amendment right, but they should do so in a mature way and respect the voices of others as well. America will always be divided on hot button topics, and that’s okay as long as people remain mature and reasonable. James 1:19 instructs us to be slow to speech and anger and quick to hear. It’s natural to want to argue any opposition and try to prove them wrong, but it can be done without hatred.
Wyche, Steve. “Colin Kaepernick Explains Why He Sat during National Anthem.” NFL.com, National Football League, 27 Aug. 2016, www.nfl.com/news/story/0ap3000000691077/article/colin-kaepernick-explains-why-he-sat-during-national-anthem.