By KIANA HUGHES
The Super Bowl was expected to continue the social and political force that has moved through the entertainment industry over the last few months. News outlets such as The Washington Post predicted that Justin Timberlake’s performance was sure to reflect current political or social concerns. However, JT’s performance did nothing to sustain the powerful influence that so many entertainers and athletes have exerted recently.
Oprah Winfrey was well aware of her potential for influence during the Golden Globes, where an estimated 19-million-viewers tuned in to watch, according to The LA Times. Winfrey’s Globe speech, on Jan. 7, provided a stool for all girls and women to stand tall above the chronic flood of injustice that flows past their feet. Winfrey’s words were not simply meant to sympathize with these women; she expressed true empathy for the soldiers involved in the #MeToo movement. At the age of nine, Winfrey was raped, according to The Irish Examiner. Though Winfrey did not mention her struggles or her triumph in her speech, she transformed the pain that many women have drowned in, into a building block for a future that is both possible and painless.
Three weeks later, Kesha, a young but iconic pop artist accomplished something much more powerful than winning an award. With approximately 20-million-viewers watching her perform at The Grammys, Kesha, like Winfrey, realized the voice she has. Kesha used the Grammys as a platform to translate the pain so many women face as a reality that no one could ignore. Kesha joined multiple other influential artists on the stage to perform her recent song “Praying”, which alludes to her own journey. Kesha has been involved in a legal battle with producer Dr. Luke since 2014, after allegations of drugging her, psychologically abusing her, and sexually assaulting her, according to CNN.
Timberlake appears to be passionate about certain social movements like the #TimesUp campaign which is a legal defense fund for sexual harassment and abuse victims, according to the campaign’s GoFundMe account. Before making his way to the Golden Globes, he posted an Instagram photo of him and his wife, dressed in all black, with a caption that used the hashtags “#TIMESUP” and “#whywewearblack.”
According to CBS, over 100 million people watched Super Bowl LII. The number of viewers who tuned into the game is more than double the amount of viewers the Grammys and Golden Globes received combined. Unlike other influential entertainers who are taking a step up to speak for the injustices of society, why did Timberlake stay silent during his performance which could have been the most watched event of the year?
Recently, it appears that the NFL has made it their goal to strip political conversation from all aspects of the game. However, “right now, the feminist reckoning that’s taking down popular figures is also making us think about art itself differently,” said Ari Shapiro, an NPR radio journalist. Though Timberlake put on his usual outstanding performance during the Super Bowl, the show seemed to be missing something. “No longer can a star like Justin Timberlake — a white artist who has spent his career connecting with black music and popular culture, a straight male artist who has released countless dance-floor seductions that sometimes veer into pushiness, let’s say — expect for people to just accept this point of view.” said Shapiro, “We want statements and struggle in our pop music, not just another smooth dance mix.”
This may be true for passionate art lovers, but sports fans disapprove of political talk.
Kyle Hoover, freshman Sport Management major, said “I think big events like the Super Bowl are useful platforms for political opinions due to the amount of viewers, but they also take away attention from the game.”
The NFL has furthered its efforts to silence the National Anthem protests by agreeing to contribute approximately $100 million to social-justice causes over the span of seven years. The agreement’s verbiage, does not directly state that players must stop protesting in order to proceed with the contribution. However, Reuters said, “The NFL is seeking an agreement that players will stand for the anthem in return.” If the NFL had stated this directly in the agreement, it would have been considered a bribe by definition. However, multiple NFL players are disappointed in the agreement. Eric Reid, San Francisco 49ers safety said, “It’s apparent the NFL is trying to buy an end to the protests.”
Silence continues on to this week’s Super Bowl LII. The NFL rejected a Super Bowl advertisement presented by the veterans group, AMVETS. The reason for rejection, according to the NFL, is that the ad consisted of a “political statement” because it was titled “Please Stand”. However, according to AMVETS, their ad was simply a request for donations and not a political statement.
When reviewing advertisements from previous Super Bowls, it is evident that the NFL has run politically active statements before. For example, last year, Budweiser released a powerful ad revealing the struggles as an immigrant, which the founder, Adolphus Busch, faced himself. The ad ran a few days after the executive order banning immigrants from multiple Muslim-majority countries, including Syrian refugees, was issued by President Donald Trump. Though Busch denies that the advertisement was a direct hit to the President’s policy-making decisions, social media users responded with the desire to boycott Budweiser.
The NFL has the obvious potential to further the conversation that is so past-due in terms of finding solutions for solvable issues. Unfortunately, the NFL has made it clear that what is in the best interest for society as a whole, is not in the best interest of their wallets. Once again, it will be the role of individual and selfless people coming together to use their voices to create an undivided and fair justice system. Progress will not be made by those with merely profit in mind.
Kiana Hughes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org