There is no more American event than the Super Bowl. That’s why Sunday is a veritable national holiday that will be celebrated by more than 100 million Americans who will watch the game. It is the hottest musical entertainment draw of the year, with the most well-known musicians vying every year to play during halftime. The Super Bowl is so influential, it has made 30-second commercials something people eagerly anticipate rather than a time to make a bathroom run during a lull in the action.
This year, the sport has become a kind of Rorschach test for patriotism after dozens of NFL players participated in a peaceful protest of kneeling during the national anthem to highlight racial inequality. It was an act that angered many others, including President Donald Trump, who called the kneeling players an awful name.
Into that muck stepped South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster this week. He is in a heated race with three other Republicans to secure his party’s nomination for the upcoming gubernatorial race. He proclaimed this week “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday” in the state.
“I ask that all South Carolinians show the world our state’s resolute commitment to supporting our troops by standing for the national anthem wherever you watch the Super Bowl with your loved ones this Sunday,” read the proclamation, which was almost immediately used by McMaster’s campaign.
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Sigh. It’s a naked attempt to use the Super Bowl’s enormous spotlight to score cheap political points, and doing so by using American troops as props while demeaning a large chunk of the residents McMaster was appointed to serve. But that fits in with the theme of the past year, as well as American tradition. Politicians using supposedly uniting language to further divide us is nothing new.
One of McMaster’s primary challengers, Catherine Templeton, took the phony outrage a couple steps further. First, she declared she wouldn’t even watch the Super Bowl, not wanting to “enrich the NFL.”
Then she released an ad online in which she appeared with an American flag and compelling background music.
“It is spoiled, entitled, ridiculous for the people who are living under the freedom provided by the people who defended that flag to kneel,” she tells the camera with all the earnestness she could muster.
Perhaps Templeton was channeling Colonel Jessup, a character played by Jack Nicholson in “A Few Good Men.” Or perhaps she just couldn’t stand that McMaster was getting so much attention for being so superficial and wanted a piece of that political action. It is clear politicians like McMaster and Templeton are OK with furthering social divisions for personal gain.
That’s why Sunday would be a wonderful time to ignore them and enjoy the camaraderie Super Bowl Sunday can bring. Even if that camaraderie lasts only a few hours, it’s a welcome respite.