Super Bowl LIII, the lowest-ever scoring NFC Championship, was shrouded in controversy. While some of this stems from Colin Kaepernick’s lawsuit against the NFL, many are angered by the questionable halftime performance decisions and the lack of a pass interference call against the Los Angeles Rams on Jan. 20 during the playoff game against the New Orleans Saints.
The NFL not only has neglected to create a welcoming environment for players with social injustice complaints, it’s failed to make an assertive statement about the contentious Super Bowl game.
Beginning the game with a video dedicated to Martin Luther King is an insulting attempt to placate an entire group who feels marginalized and ignored by the NFL. These sort of passive messages are insulting because they advocate for outside social justice movements while ignoring their own. An active statement needs to be made by the NFL, and Commissioner Roger Goodell must be a part of this — he cannot continue to brush these issues under the rug.
The Kaepernick controversy has impacted the league’s reputation and reliability. Viewership has continued to decline, dropping 10% last season according to Forbes. Well-known celebrities and singers have opted out of watching and even participating in the Super Bowl. Cardi B, Rihanna, Jay-Z and Pink have all denied the NFL’s requests for a halftime performance.
Celebrities like Nick Cannon and Ava DuVernay decided they wouldn’t be watching the game this year, tweeting #IStandWithKap after choosing to support Kaepernick as he sues the NFL for colluding to keep him out of the league.
In an interview with Entertainment Tonight recorded prior to the Super Bowl on Jan. 31, Adam Levine responded to those who were upset about his choice to perform, saying people who don’t feel represented will have their voices heard during the performance. While I believe Levine shouldn’t be forced to act as a politician, if he says that the issue will be addressed as he did in this comment, then it should have been.
Gladys Knight, an American singer-songwriter and actress who performed the national anthem this year, sparked controversy after, on Feb. 1, she said there should be a distinction between the anthem and fighting for social justice. Knight also should not be pressured to utilize the national anthem as a political statement, but rather the NFL should take charge of advocating for social justice in the league.
Kaepernick has the right and choice to use his position to advocate for his beliefs, just as any other athlete, influencer or celebrity. Kaepernick’s fight for social injustice has drawn on far too long without direct, helpful action from the NFL. In an effort to show true authenticity and recognition of the issue, the football league needs to address the Kaepernick controversy outright, rather than continuing to ignore it.
Once the NFL does this, and if their new social justice initiative, Inspire Change, begins to materialize into real action, viewers and fans won’t feel the need to call on the halftime performers to express their voice, and in turn, these celebrities and big names won’t be pressured to politicize their every move.