Header Ads

Breaking News

At the Super Bowl, the Political Was Debatable

Were Beyoncé and Jay-Z making a political statement when they sat during the national anthem? Was Jennifer Lopez alluding to President Trump’s immigration practices by having children sitting in cage-like orbs? What about that Puerto Rican flag?

At the Super Bowl, the most widely viewed television event of the year, political statements from international superstars can be only so overt. And since representatives for the three celebrities didn’t respond to questions about the meaning, if any, behind the gestures, viewers rushed in to fill the void with speculation.

Jay-Z and Beyoncé were not part of the televised presentation during Demi Lovato’s singing of “The Star-Spangled Banner.” The celebrity news website TMZ obtained a video of the two of them, along with their daughter Blue Ivy, seated during the song while most everyone else around them was standing.

The royal couple of hip-hop were not ignoring the song; both appeared to be swaying to it. But given the circumstances of Jay-Z’s partnership with the National Football League, many readers wondered whether their attachment to their seats was part of some message. One conservative author and pundit, Nick Adams, called it a “disgusting act of shame” on Twitter; others wondered whether it was all a manufactured fuss.

The N.F.L. entered a partnership with Jay-Z as a way to smooth over the rough edges left by the league’s battle with Colin Kaepernick, the former quarterback whose kneeling during the national anthem touched off a nationwide debate over free speech, patriotism and the treatment of black Americans. The deal called for Jay-Z and his company, Roc Nation, to consult on live entertainment, including the halftime show, and for the music impresario to contribute to a league social-justice campaign called “Inspire Change.”

Jay-Z had supported Kaepernick’s protest, but received some flack from those who saw his cooperation with the N.F.L. as betraying Kaepernick’s cause. In a recent interview with The New York Times, Jay-Z said that he “can take a couple rounds of negative press” if it meant the deal could help convince white football fans that they should be concerned with police treatment of African-Americans.

Beyoncé herself used the Super Bowl platform to make a statement even before Kaepernick began kneeling. In 2016, her performance of “Formation” during the halftime show in New Orleans was replete with black pride imagery — featuring costumes reminiscent of Black Panther attire — and carried an implicit message about police shootings.

David M. Carter, an associate professor of sports business at the University of Southern California, said that entertainers see the Super Bowl as a platform to communicate — but any political messages tend to be toned down because of the multitude of corporate interests involved.

But many hard-core football fans have gotten used to the injections of political messaging in the games, he said. Their reactions tend to be “somewhere between fatigue and an eye roll,” Carter said.

It would also have been easy to miss the possible political symbolism in J. Lo and Shakira’s halftime show with its explosion of hip gyrations, pole dancing and Latin rhythms. But more than 10 minutes into the show, the cameras pulled back to reveal a more tranquil scene: children, dressed in white, sitting beneath lit-up structures that looked a bit like tulips with their petals closed. Some viewers interpreted the structures as representing children in cages, a reference to the Trump’s administration’s practice of detaining migrant children separately from their parents.

Then, as the music transitioned to a brief sampling from Bruce Springsteen’s “Born in the U.S.A.,” Lopez reappeared wearing a feathery floor-length jacket bearing the Puerto Rican flag on one side and the American flag on the other. Lopez shouted “Latinos!” before sharing a moment with a young vocalist (who happened to be her daughter, Emme Maribel Muñiz) and breaking out a salsa step.

Lopez, who was born in the Bronx to Puerto Rican parents and has family on the Caribbean island, has been an outspoken advocate for Puerto Ricans since the island was devastated by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in 2017. The pop star donated $1 million to the relief effort and visited the island a few months later, saying that Puerto Ricans “just want to be treated equally” as Americans.

The Puerto Rican flag lasted only a few seconds on the Super Bowl stage: J. Lo quickly shed the dual-flag jacket and strutted forward to finish the show in her sparkling silver jumpsuit. A representative for Lopez declined to comment on whether the symbols were intended to be political statements.

Twitter users did not decline to comment.

One moment during the Super Bowl package was more intentional in its messaging. In a commercial from the “Inspire Change” initiative, the retired football player Anquan Boldin recounted the night that his cousin, Corey Jones, who is black, was fatally shot by a plainclothes police officer while awaiting help along a highway in Florida. (The officer was convicted of manslaughter and sentenced to 25 years in prison.) The minute-long commercial touched on some of the causes that “Inspire Change” promotes: economic advancement, police relations with the community and criminal justice reform.

Source link

No comments