Editorial: Controversy in the Super Bowl

February 15, 2019

On Sunday, February 3rd, more than 100 million Americans were expected to tune into the 53rd Super Bowl. Usually, this number of viewers would make the halftime show a very desirable opportunity for the performers. 

Maroon 5 was the lead performer at the show, with Travis Scott and Big Boi in guest roles. But all three performers were signed late in the game after five major artists, including Rihanna, Cardi B, and Jay-Z, reportedly turned down the offer to perform. This year the Super Bowl was fraught with controversy that stemmed from the NFL’s poor handling of Colin Kaepernick’s protests.  

In 2017, Kaepernick, a backup quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, decided he would no longer stand during the national anthem, instead choosing to kneel. This was a silent protest against police shootings of unarmed African Americans.

Many conservatives see kneeling during the anthem as a sign of disrespect toward the country and the flag. However, when NFL players kneel in order to protest racism and police brutality against African Americans, it is not a sign of disrespect towards the country. They are protesting the problems with the country and advocating for changes to be made.

President Trump also chimed in, saying, “You know what’s hurting the game: when people like yourselves turn on the television,” he said at a rally in September 2017 with mostly white attendees, “and you see those people,” referring to mostly young black men, “taking a knee when they are playing our great national anthem.” 

First of all,  the President should have more important issues to worry about than tweeting about a sports league. He is even talking about this at rallies, which are usually dedicated to more political topics. The President’s place is not in sports, and his comments made this situation even more controversial.  

However, though the President and conservatives have made this situation worse than it needed to be, the NFL deserves most of the blame for how they handled the situation. 

The league started off supporting Kaepernick and other protesting players, saying they were only “encouraged to stand, not required.” 

However, the moment people, such as Trump, started getting angry, they changed their stance completely. They even added a policy that forced players to pay a fine if they did not stand during the anthem. 

This is where the NFL crossed a line. Fining a player for kneeling was not only unnecessary but also clearly put in place to appease conservatives and end the boycotts costing the NFL money. 

Moreover, it infringed on the player’s right to protest. Though the teams and the league are technically private entities and do not necessarily have to abide by the First Amendment, they still should not have the power to prevent players from protesting. 

Thankfully, the NFL repealed the policy after considerable backlash, but again this is just its changing its stance to appease the angry party. 

Now, however, they have flip-flopped again, effectively blacklisting Kaepernick, preventing him from being hired. The League has denied that they blacklisted him but considering that many lesser players have been hired instead of him, it is clear that they are preventing him from working. 

The NFL would fare better if it just stuck to one side of the argument, either supporting the protest or opposing it. Instead, it looks like it can not make up its mind while trying to support both sides of the argument. Though this might seem like the right thing to do, there is no way everyone will be happy. Instead it needs to pick one side and stick to it. 

In addition to the died the situation, the artists that performed are also at fault. By playing at the halftime show, they are supporting the NFL, the ones that made all these horrible decisions. Several significant artists already declined, and I wonder why Maroon 5, Travis Scott, and Big Boi accepted. First off, the only reason they would want to do this is for publicity. However, all three artists, especially Maroon 5 and Travis, are already incredibly famous. “Girls Like You,” by Maroon 5, has almost two billion views on YouTube, and “SICKO MODE” by Travis Scott was in the top ten for seventeen weeks. Clearly, they are famous enough not to need more publicity. Their choice to perform might be more understandable if they used to it to send a message. However, this year’s halftime show has been called “forgettable” by most major news sources. Past halftime shows have involved politics, such as Beyonce supporting the Black Lives Matter movement in 2017 or Michael Jackson’s performance in 1993 supporting his “Heal The World” Foundation. However, this year’s show had none of that, focusing more on Adam Levine showing off his new tattoos. I think that these groups not performing, especially Travis Scott who has said he supports the Black Lives Matter movement, would have been much more effective than this boring halftime show. This year’s Super Bowl, and especially halftime show, was riddled with controversy. The root of the problem is how the NFL handled Colin Kaepernick and its attempts to make everyone satisfied. Though other people, such as President Trump and the artists who performed, undoubtedly contributed to the situation being more dramatic than it needed to be, the NFL needs to address these issues more productively, or else we may see a repeat of this controversy in 2020.

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