The Super Bowl:  What Has Happened to America?

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There was a time not too long ago when 100 million or more Americans would gather with friends and family on a Sunday evening in mid-winter to watch the Super Bowl without hesitancy. It was a time for families and friends to come together and see the two best football teams in the nation. And it was a time for everyone to enjoy the pageantry of the occasion and unite in a common event.

And there was nothing divisive or obscene about it.

No longer.

For the third straight year, this past Sunday the National Football League before the game had a song played titled “Lift Every Voice and Sing.” It’s called by some the Black National Anthem – as if the black NFL players and African-Americans across the country desperately need another national anthem, as if blacks could not possibly want to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” because it represents white America – an evil and bigoted nation.

What could possibly be more divisive?

Does this mean that we will someday have to have a Hispanic national anthem for baseball games? Or an Asian national anthem? One for each skin color!

What is perhaps even more remarkable is that the Black National Anthem is played at the Super Bowl, the pinnacle event of a sport in which roughly 70 percent of the players are black. Both quarterbacks at this year’s Super Bowl were non-white – and this season they were voted, respectively, Most Valuable Player of the league and runner-up.

The NFL is the ultimate meritocracy in sports, and blacks have come out on top. Good for them. Why poison the league’s championship game? Is the Super Bowl the time to divide the nation by race? To politicize a sport that so many love?

NFL owners and their lackeys should be ashamed of themselves.

As if the pre-game weren’t enough … then there was the halftime show. Many years ago I stopped watching the halftime show. I decided I could and should do without the outlandish costumes and behavior.

But this year friends encouraged me to “get with it” and watch the show. So I did. And what did I see?

(Spoiler alert:  If you didn’t watch the halftime show and don’t want to know what happened, stop here.)

Pop star Rihanna at one point grabbed her crotch before smelling her hand. She clearly enjoyed parading around, gratuitously humping and grasping her buttocks, while singing, “Come here rude boy, boy, can you get it up? Come here rude boy, boy, is you big enough?”

This all took place before millions of children and teen-agers. Surely many parents wisely kept their children from watching, but many probably did not, allowing their kids to watch this disgraceful behavior.

How has America come to this? How have we allowed the Super Bowl to become a pagan ritual which plays before a third of the nation? What happened to beautiful and uplifting song, music, and dance?

What, exactly, was wrong when the Super Bowl consisted of a celebration of America before the game and an upbeat and occasionally uplifting musical show at the half?

What was wrong with a Super Bowl that centered on the great game of football?

Why do we need politics, social division, and obscenity?

Is there any NFL owner willing to stand up and ask, “Can’t we do better than this?”


Robert H. Bradley is Chairman of Bradley, Foster & Sargent Inc., a $5.8 billion wealth management firm that has offices in Hartford, Connecticut and Wellesley, Massachusetts. Read other articles by him here.