Super Bowl Politics

by on February 6, 2017

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Trump Values Dominate the NFL

No, the Patriots 34-28 Super Bowl win was not a victory for Donald Trump.

I realize that many progressive saw the game in political terms. They were united against the Patriots due to the friendly relations with Trump held by Tom Brady, Bill Belichick, and  owner Robert Kraft.

In contrast, the Atlanta Falcons represented an African-American city partially represented by civil rights legend John Lewis. Atlanta is also a land of hip-hop, and a heavily Democratic bastion in an otherwise Republican state.

But this focus on a few people’s relationship to Trump obscures the real political problem with the Super Bowl: the NFL’s racist and anti-worker business practices that mirror those of Donald Trump.

The NFL’s Trumpian Values

There may be no economic venture in the United States more profit driven than the National Football League.  If you think that an exaggeration, tell me another industry that wrecks the lives of many if not most of its workers after only an average four year career.

A coal miner would spend decades in the mines before coming down with a life threatening disease; most NFL players are done playing by age 30 but live with brain injuries, dementia, and an inability to cognitively and physically function anywhere near the level of their non-football playing peers.

According to the NFL Players Association, every player retires with a pre-existing injury. Yet the $13 billion NFL refuses to provide lifetime medical coverage for its players.

Many owners back President Trump’s plan to repeal Obamacare, which will jeopardize health coverage of  former NFL players. So here we have a group of billionaire owners undercutting the government funded health care its players depend on due to the league’s failure to take care of their own.

Unlike the NBA and MLB, the NFL does not give players guaranteed contracts. That’s why so many choose to play with a concussion rather than   face the unemployment line.

By age 30 most NFL players are out of the game and paying the price for not getting a quality education. It’s no wonder that 25% of NFL players soon declare bankruptcy after retiring.

Relocating Teams

Recall how Donald Trump took big tax breaks from Atlantic City and then left the beleaguered community holding the bag? This is standard NFL practice.

After San Diego voters refused to open their pocketbooks for billionaire, landlord owner Dean Spanos, the NFL gave the team its blessing to move to Los Angeles. That LA didn’t ask for the Chargers, or that they will soon be sharing a stadium with the Rams, made no difference—the NFL wants to teach fans a lesson that they can lose their team if they don’t give owners the money they demand.

In Oakland, Raiders owner Mark Davis—who has seen his team value skyrocket through no labor of his own—isn’t happy that Oakland won’t give him the sweetheart stadium deal other teams get. That Oakland mortgaged its future to bring the Raiders back from LA twenty years ago, and spent millions renovating the Oakland Coliseum, is forgotten by the NFL.

What better example of Trump values than to screw over the working class fans that gave the Raiders their unwavering support? That Davis chose right-wing Trump backer Sheldon Adelson as his partner in Las Vegas perfectly fit the Trumpian nature of the  deal; as did Adelson’s recent decision to withdraw his funds from the deal.

The NFL screwed over St. Louis twice, first by allowing the Cardinals to leave for Arizona and then allowing the Rams to move back to Los Angeles. Sad to say, but this is the value system that NFL fans are supporting when they buy tickets to games.

Profound Racism

The NFL also echoes Trump in preferring white men for nearly all key positions.

Think an African-American would ever get a General Manager’s job with absolutely no administrative experience like John Lynch just did for the SF 49ers? And a six year contract to boot?

Jeff Fisher coached in the NFL for 21 years despite only having six winning seasons. He was hired by the Rams in 2012 after he was 6-10 in this prior coaching season. In contrast, African-American Lovie Smith was fired by the Chicago Bears after a ten win season and two years after taking the Bears to the Super Bowl.

Anyone think a black NFL coach would have coached for two decades with Fisher’s record? Or that a white coach with Smith’s record faced any chance of firing after a ten win season?

If the coaching numbers don’t depress you, check out the number of blacks in upper management in the NFL. It’s a disgrace.

The NFL is not simply a “game.” It is a racist system controlled by billionaires that steals money from local communities and causes permanent health damage to its players/workers.

That’s what the politics of the Super Bowl are really about.

Randy Shaw is Editor of Beyond Chron

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Randy Shaw

Randy Shaw is the Editor of Beyond Chron and the Director of San Francisco’s Tenderloin Housing Clinic, which publishes Beyond Chron. Shaw is the author of four books on activism, including The Activist's Handbook: Winning Social Change in the 21st Century, and Beyond the Fields: Cesar Chavez, the UFW and the Struggle for Justice in the 21st Century. His new book is The Tenderloin: Sex, Crime and Resistance in the Heart of San Francisco

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