The Super Bowl in Black History
Arguably the biggest day of the year for football fans, is durring Black history Month the Super Bowl (also called "World" Champinship Game, ...played only in US by one country lol) for years attracts millions of viewers not only because of the game but also due to the Halftime show, past shows have seen the likes of Michael Jackson, Beyoncé and Prince take centre stage. This year we had a multitude of black talent. We saw The Weeknd perform a medley of his top hits, Jasmine Sullivan sang the national anthem, sharing the moment with country music star Eric Church. RnB artist H.E.R dazzled the audience with her rendition of ‘America the Beautiful’. Amanda Gorman, poet laureate who first came to fame for her inspiring poem performed at Joe Biden’s inauguration, recited an uplifting poem. It was clear that the NFL had decided to take a much more diverse approach, however to many it was a case of too little too late.
The NFL has a complicated relationship when it comes to culture, racism and race, although 70% of NFL players are African American the head coaches and owners of the teams are majority white.
We were reminded of just how the NFL deals with black culture issues in 2016 when 49ers’ Quarterback Colin Kaepernick took the knee during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice, the backlash was huge and had an irreversible impact to his football career. Many fans who didn’t support his move were up in arms, burning the Quarterbacks’ jersey and demanding he be kicked off the team, viewership of the 2016/2017 season went down by 8%.
However, this did not deter Kaepernick and he continued to take the knee with many other NFL players and athletes outside of the NFL also showing their support and taking the knee. These athletes also criticised Trump’s presidency stating that it was to blame for the recent increase incidents against black and brown people in the country. So, it comes as no surprise that Kaepernick’s contract was not renewed at the end of the season and he was not picked up by any other team.
What is so obvious is that many in the US only see Black people as entertainers and not people with feelings and rights. They don’t care about our struggle or that we are dying at disproportionate numbers at the hands of the police. They want us to keep quiet and entertain them whether it’s through our talents as sportsmen, musicians or actors. Yet when we use our platforms to speak up and demand the end to the unlawfully killing of Black people, they say that we are ungrateful and that we should concreate on our craft and not discuss politics.
Although for most Americans the national anthem is a symbol of pride and patriotism. For a good number of African Americans, the national anthem and the flag don’t represent them. Not only does the anthem have racist origins, originally the anthem included a verse that praised slavery, the flag is often seen as a symbol of conservatism. It’s why at the turn of the 20th century black people decided to create their own anthem, ‘Lift every voice and sing’, the lyrics touched on slavery and the fight for liberation, as well as create their own flag. It’s why many African Americans also refuse to pledge allegiance to the flag.
When in 2019, Jay Z and Roc Nation decided to team up with the NFL to work on the league’s live performances and social justice efforts, he was met with a wave of criticism. He had previously declined to perform at the Super Bowl and publicly praised Kaepernick for his activism. Partnering up with the NFL came across as extremely disingenuous. Jay Z however, reassured his critics that he had planned to use the platform to shed light on police brutality and try and convince the white audience that this is an issue that they should also care about. The Inspire to Change initiative is just one of many ways in which the NFL promises to help right racial equity. The moving commercial was included during the Super Bowl and included many NFL players taking the knee, yet quite notably didn’t include Kaepernick.
It is ironic that during Black History Month, Tom Brady, a known Trump supporter has now become the most decorated NFL player in history and is viewed by some as one of the best athletes in the world, yet Kaepernick is still a free agent for taking a stand for a cause that the NFL now, years later publicly backs. It once again proves how contradictory the NFL is and how little they truly care about black people.