Yesterday (February 5), the New England Patriots came back from an unprecedented deficit to win the biggest football game of the year against the Atlanta Falcons. In a new year rife with anti-POC, anti-immigrant, anti-woman and anti-Muslim actions from the highest office in the land, it only made sense that the battle for the nation’s soul would spill onto the field at Houston’s NRG Stadium. From late-night jokes to song choices to commercials, here are the subtle—and not-so subtle—roles race, xenophobia and Islamophobia played in Super Bowl LI.
The Joke Heard Round the Country
On Saturday’s (February episode of “Saturday Night Live, Weekend Update co-host Michael Che said what many Black Americans have been saying since they learned which teams were competing for the Vince Lombardi Trophy: “I just want to relax, turn my brain off and watch the Blackest city in America beat the most racist city I’ve ever been to.”
Even folks who don’t follow football were tuned into the perceived stakes:
I’ont know nothing bout football. All I know is the symbolism of this game is REAL. Please Black Jesus Don’t let White Supremacy win tonight— Yaba Blay (@fiyawata) February 6, 2017
The Patriotic Opener
The game then opened with a song the actresses of color who originated the roles of the Schuyler Sisters in “Hamilton,” a Broadway musical that touts the power of immigrants and the importance of rising up against an oppressive leader. Jasmine Cephas Jones, René Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo decided to add two words to “America the Beautiful” to make it more inclusive: “And sisterhood.”
The Subversive Commercials
You know the country is in disarray when the world’s largest brands used the priciest ad slots of the year to make a point. Coca-Cola re-aired an especially relevant 2014 commercial that posited that immigration and inclusion are what make America beautiful:
And AirBnB’s “We Accept,” ad explicitly addressed the importance of being accepting of all races, religions and sexual orientations.
Budweiser’s “Born the Hard Way” ad, which prompted the hashtag #BoycottBudweiser (and the less accurately spelled #BoycottBudwiser) from conservatives, reminded viewers that White Americans who oppose immigration are the descendants of people who came to this country for a better life.
It’s a 10 Hair Care’s commercial was slightly less direct in its condemnation of the current political climate and attendant hate, but way funnier:
Lady Gaga’s Ode to Inclusion
The halftime performer opened her set with a rendition of “This Land is Your Land,” which The Washington Post reminds readers began as a protest song and has figured prominently in some of the past week’s airport actions in support of detained immigrants.
NFL (@NFL) February 6, 2017
The Crushing Defeat
The Atlanta Falcons gave away an 18-point lead at the start of the second half to lose the game in overtime. If Twitter is any evidence, many people noted Tom Brady’s support of President Trump and felt a sickening sense of deja vu at the team’s loss.
This is just like election night. Shit. #Superbowl— Awesomely Luvvie (@Luvvie) February 6, 2017
The difference between the Super Bowl and the 2016 election is that, in the NFL, the team with the higher score won. #NotMySuperBowlChamps— Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) February 6, 2017
Does this pic not represent the 2016 election and this Super Bowl win? Rupert Murdoch (Fox/Fox News), Bob Kraft (Patriots Owner) + Putin. pic.twitter.com/UWeOuKHp8T— Yashar (@yashar) February 6, 2017
So first trump wins the election and now a trump supporter wins the super bowl. America is something else pic.twitter.com/3JSKOzRXyw— A ? (@shimmercontour) February 6, 2017
The ‘I’m Straight on That,’ Moment
Martellus Bennett might be a part of the winning team, but it appears that he is not at all interested in visiting the White House with his teammates. Bennett is a vocal supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement, and voted for Hillary Clinton for president.
Patriots TE Martellus Bennett said he will not go to the White House to honor Super Bowl win. Not worried about what his owner thinks.— Brandon George (@DMN_George) February 6, 2017