New York Times National Football League writer Ken Belson couldn’t confine himself to reporting on the Super Bowl itself, feeling obligated to tell readers how the spectacle failed – not by providing a boring, punt-filled game, but by not embracing the social justice agenda of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, which includes disrespect toward the American flag and National Anthem: “No Kneeling During Super Bowl LIII National Anthem, but Still Plenty of Talk.”
Belson noted the pre-game parade of civil rights leaders, which fit the site of the game: Atlanta, home of the Civil Rights movement (click “expand”):
The presence of the civil rights leaders did not seem to win over supporters of the player, Colin Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who in 2016 began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest racism and police brutality against people of color and has not played a down since that season.
Even before the game, many resolved not to watch, including the film director Ava DuVernay, who accused the N.F.L. of “racist treatment of @Kaepernick7” and lamented an “ongoing disregard for the health + well-being of players.”
Yet the overture spoke to an effort by the N.F.L. to thread the needle between appeasing conservative fans -- there were military flyovers and giant flags and shout-outs to war veterans -- and addressing the questions and criticism it has received over racial issues.
Win or lose, the league could find itself on the defensive among fans it has been courting with its civil rights overtures.
If the league wins its case, supporters of Kaepernick may doubt the outcome -- a string of lesser quarterbacks statistically have found teams. If the league loses, a conventional wisdom would be validated and the league would be in the embarrassing position of paying millions dollars to a player who has not suited up since 2016.
Kaepernick for his part has spent the past several days posting images on social media of celebrities -- LeBron James, among them -- supporting him.
And Communist Angela Davis, but that went unmentioned.
In September 2017, Belson complained that “The [NFL] owners have done little to support players who protest to fight social injustice. A few owners have told their players that kneeling for the anthem is inappropriate. The owners by and large are a white, conservative group of billionaires, several of them big-dollar donors to President Trump.”
Meanwhile, music critic Jon Caramanica let everyone in on his exaggerated dislike for the inoffensive Super Bowl half-time band Maroon 5, while berating both the band and the N.F.L. for failing to make the Super Bowl sufficiently woke, in “Take a Knee? Halftime Was Mostly a Shrug”:
Maroon 5 -- a quasi-soul, quasi-rock, utterly funkless band -- was the main attraction at the Super Bowl halftime show at Mercedes-Benz Stadium in Atlanta, likely the third or eighth or maybe 14th choice for a headliner.
In a year in which the Super Bowl halftime show has become a referendum on political mindfulness, in which the N.F.L. has become a staging ground for conversations about racial justice in America, Maroon 5 was a cynically apt choice....
And the band did no better during its 13 and a half minutes onstage, in a performance that was dynamically flat, mushy at the edges, worthy of something much worse than derision: a shrug. It was an inessential performance from a band that might have lost some moral authority if it had any moral authority to lose.
Caramanica revealingly called Maroon 5’s refusal to play the left's political game “stubborn resistance”:
And in a year in which the political valence of the halftime show mattered more than ever, the band’s stubborn resistance was glaring. The N.F.L. canceled the traditional news conference for performers this year, looking to avoid a fiasco. But the frontman Adam Levine did do an interview with “Entertainment Tonight” in which he suggested that the choice to perform at the halftime show triggers in some an “insatiable urge to hate a little bit.”
But the decision of whether to perform was now oriented around the protests of Colin Kaepernick and other N.F.L. players, who in 2016 began taking a knee during the national anthem (or otherwise not standing at attention) as a means of drawing attention to the systemic oppression of black people in this country.
Caramanica even insulted Gladys Knight’s rapturously received rendition of the National Anthem, in terms any music snob would appreciate:
For what it’s worth, the toxicity of being associated with the Super Bowl didn’t appear to extend beyond the halftime performance... an impressive, if Disney-saccharine, national anthem from Gladys Knight, who before the game criticized Kaepernick for making the anthem a site of protest.
Caramanica previously had pompously condemned the country music genre for not writing about what he cares about: Gun violence.