The NFL’s Blackout on Super Bowl Sunday

Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana, was the home to Super Bowl XVLI.
Lucas Oil Field in Indianapolis, Indiana, was the home to Super Bowl XVLI. Photo by Dennis J. Freeman

The NFL has failed its Black History Month moment test. That’s because the NFL production called the Super Bowl has turned back into the “Ozzie and Harriet” show. For those who don’t know anything about the 1950s and 60s television sitcom, “Ozzie and Harriet,” was the type of show that essentially resembled the wholesome portrait of America and its self-perpetuated spotless image.

Millions of people around the world will inhale and talk about the spectacular and breathless last moments of Super Bowl XVLI where the New York Giants defeated the New England Patriots to win the NFL’s defining game. But there’s much more to discuss than the superficiality of this particular football game.

The main thing is that the NFL has become just as colorless when it comes to media inclusion and viable participation from African Americans on GameDay as it did 30 to 40 years ago. There wasn’t any visible NFL moment to honor Black History Month-either through commercials or any announcement before the game.

This is the same league that can feature its own NFL Latino venture, but at the same time deny acknowledgement of African Americans, a race of people who make up the majority of athletes laboring in sweat on the football field-just to entertain the masses. In essence, the NFL appear to don’t give a hoot about the black men and women it employs by its failure to properly recognize African Americans on the world’s biggest sports stage in front of the viewing public.

African Americans spent $803 billion dollars in consumer spending in 2008, according to Target Market News, which monitors the spending habits of blacks in this country. With this kind of money being spent, African Americans should have the clout to make their voices heard when it comes down to the marketing of products and services in and around the Super Bowl every year.

Outside of the many African American athletes that played on both teams in Super Bowl XVLI, it was very difficult to locate a black face of significance during the broadcast of the game, during commercials and the all-becoming whites-only halftime show.

Madonna is still going strong with her new album,"Give Me All Your Luvin." Photo Credit: PR Newswire/Interscope Records

Speaking of the halftime show, R&B crooner Cee Lo Green and rapper M.I.A. spotting up with an outdated Madonna became nothing more than a diluted show of the new, the old and indifferent. Cee Lo, who have several monster hits under his belt, could have carried the halftime show by himself. Cee Lo is among the hottest music acts today, not the overexposed and limited singing Madonna, whose claim to fame has been centered mainly on who she has slept with.

So the NFL needed to add these two black faces just to cement Madonna’s over-the-top and lackluster “Material Girl” performance. Don’t get me wrong, Madonna is still beautiful. It’s just that her music may be past tense to this generation of music lovers.

However, we wouldn’t be talking about this had it not been for the Super Bowl halftime mess that Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake got themselves into in 2004.

Since the infamous Jackson-Timberlake fiasco took place on center stage of the NFL’s signature game, the image of a multi-dimensional, all-inclusive show has been whitened and gotten older significantly.

This year’s Super Bowl show was no different. From the national anthem to the halftime production to the numerous commercials shown during the football breaks, America was treated to a whitewash of watered-down patriotism and the virtual exclusion of color. In the last several years, America and Super Bowl traditionalists have been treated to Bruce Springsteen, Prince, Mick Jagger and the Rolling Stones and now Madonna.

It’s time for the NFL to get with the program and add some new blood to their halftime show. It’s as if the NFL, outside of the black football players, is indirectly telling America that the natives won’t be running amok in the asylum anymore. But when you have knuckleheads like M.I.A. running around stage and throwing up the middle finger in front of a worldwide television audience, it’s easy to see why the NFL is guarded against adding hip hop artists into the program.

But for all of its talk about the diversity, the NFL has turned the Super Bowl into a playground where it seems like that only the majority culture in this country is invited to play. The single, most-watched event on television has turned the mega-hype into a  three-ring circus where African Americans are regulated to just the playing field and pretty much nothing else.

Much like the blacks who sacrificed their humanity way of living because of the hardship of slavery, African American football players have become nothing but subservient pawns in a chess battle that has become almost unwinnable war. Representation has become more of a hiccup than routine. The NFL has become its own country club, where only certain individuals are given passes to get in.

It has become more apparent recently that the only way African Americans can get access to that exclusive club is playing on the football field. For all of its contributions to the sport, African Americans deserve at least a little shout out for their part in history.




Dennis J. Freeman
About Dennis J. Freeman 1176 Articles
Dennis covers the NFL (Chargers), NBA (Los Angeles Clippers, Los Angeles Lakers), Major League Baseball (Los Angeles Dodgers) and NCAA sports (USC, UCLA, Long Beach State). Dennis has also covered and written on topics such as civil rights, politics and social justice. Dennis is a proud alum of Howard University.