More Than a Hip Hop Game
Yesterday was the LVI (56th) Super Bowl. Some “over-officious jerk(s)” (thank you, Marv Levy) spoiled a spirited game at the end, but for me, the real action took place before the kickoff and at halftime. A lot of black America is still reeling from the blackballing of Colin Kaepernick. The NFL is submersed in a controversy involving racial justice, hiring practices, and fairness for the umpteenth time. They tried their best to appease an ever-growing uneasiness in their black community of fans surrounding their policies when hiring black head coaches. Even more so, their failure to immediately acknowledge the righteousness of Kaepernick’s protest sticks in the craw of many.
Again the NFL sought to appease while at the same time avoiding controversy. Before the game, after warmups, and before kickoff, the gospel duo Mary Mary performed the song Lift Every Voice and Sing. For those of you who do not know, the song was adapted from a poem by James Weldon Johnson, and for 13% of the population, it is known as the Negro National Anthem. By separating the song from the official proceedings, they nodded to Black History Month while trying not to offend viewers who may have believed the NFL was putting the song on par with the official National Anthem of the United States of America. The National Basketball Association first did this starting in January. I first sang it in ninth grade, 50 years ago.
Last night the NFL pulled out all the stops assembling hip hop royalty in a display of phony ‘wokeness’ never before seen at their halftime extravaganzas. Dr. Dre., Mary J. Blige, Marshall Mathers (M&M) Martha Stewart’s playdate the incomparable Snoop Dogg, Kendrick Lamar, and special guest Fifty-Cent. The sets were lavish, the dancers were superb, and the music was a tour de’ force of some of hip hop’s most fantastic tunes. Of course, all that blackness being on display and honored set the conservative twitter(s) on fire with rage. Professional conservative troll Charlie Kirk called it “sexual anarchy.” I suppose he prefers his women flanked by sharks. Up with People!
Others complained about the lack of diversity—I am not sure if they were calling for quotas or M&M is not white enough. Conservative and Trump supporter Candace Owens, a former Liberal, has experience being turned on—ask most of black America. She tweeted out about the live performance, “This is an excellent Super Bowl halftime performance,” adding, “Undeniable hip-hop and R&B excellence.” Owens has worked hard to put her blackness aside because Republicans do not Theorize Critically about Race. Still, the music was so “undeniable” and “excellence” in her words—that she revealed a moment of non-conservative clarity and truth. It is okay, Candace; we remember you at the cookouts.
The response by Conservatives was predictable, jealousy, race-baiting, and derision, but the NFL’s reaction is yet to come. Catchy phrases on helmets and painted slogans in end zones are a good visual but lack substance. Hip hop was a good touch but will black candidates get a real chance at head coaching and, more importantly, ownership? Maybe we can get ‘In da Club.’
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