Super Bowl Sunday has a knack for exposing some people's true colors

Xenophobia, super bowl commercialThe Super Bowl was played this past Sunday, between the Seattle Seahawks and the Denver Broncos. As is customary before the Super Bowl, luminaries from both teams spent some time speaking to the press. One such luminary was Broncos VP, John Elway. Mr. Elway spent his entire professional career with the Broncos, leading them to five Super Bowls and six AFC championship games. Now, John Elway is a very wealthy man who should learn not to say certain things out loud.

Elway appeared on Fox News Sunday with Chris Wallace, where Wallace asked him why he, Elway, is a Republican. Instead of just smiling and answering with “Oh, Chris, let’s talk about the Super Bowl,” Mr. Elway replied:

“Well, it goes to what my beliefs are. I believe that we’re given the opportunity to succeed or not succeed. I don’t believe in safety nets. Obviously, we’ve got to have some kind of safety nets. But I think my philosophy is when given the opportunity to go take advantage of that, I think that’s when you get the best out of people.”

John Elway doesn’t believe in safety nets. He thinks we need “some kind,” like many Republicans claim, but making that statement before the Super Bowl is pretty disingenuous. The NFL is a tax-exempt organization. That’s right; the National Football League doesn’t pay any taxes. The NFL is part of Mitt Romney’s 47%. The NFL also has one of the best, if not the best, pension and retirement plans in the country. Play three games during a season, and you qualify.

During the Super Bowl, Richard Sherman suffered a serious injury. Serious injuries are common during football games, all football games, from pee-wee to pro. And the most frequent injuries suffered are concussions. The NFL is currently trying to navigate its way through a legal battle, brought on by former NFL players who have been diagnosed with a myriad of problems, all related to the multiple concussions they suffered while playing professional football.

Having ignored and/or swept the issue of brain injury under the rug for decades has come back to haunt the NFL, and after the Super Bowl, The Onion ran a headline that read “Super Bowl Confetti Made Entirely From Shredded Concussion Studies.”

When John Elway spoke of his disapproval of safety nets, I wonder if he was in any way referring to his fellow retired NFL players who are struggling with brain injuries, manic depression, anxiety and other issues linked to concussions. Those players were never told the truth, and on the day of the Super Bowl, perhaps John Elway could have mentioned that. Given that he is an executive who makes millions of dollars off the sport, and is part of an organization that pays no taxes, we really shouldn’t be surprised if Mr. Elway doesn’t live in the “real world.”

In addition to watching football, people watch the Super Bowl for the commercials. Every year, companies pay a ton of money to have their ad featured during the game, hoping consumers will be motivated by a catchy song, or funny graphics, and buy whatever product a company is selling. My personal all-time favorite Super Bowl ad involves cowboys who herd cats. This year’s Super Bowl ads fell flat with consumers for the most part, except for three: The Budweiser puppy and Clydesdale ad, the Audi mutant dog ad, and the Coca-Cola ad, featuring “America the Beautiful” sung in multiple languages.

Out of the three ads above, only one incited rampant xenophobia online. Can you guess which commercial caused Americans to post angry and incredibly racist comments to Facebook and Twitter? Inspired a boycott? Not the puppy ad, not the mutant dog ad; no, it was the Coke ad. I spent some time on Facebook, reading the absolutely horrific things Americans were writing about this commercial.

People enraged that the “National Anthem” was sung in different languages (“America the Beautiful” is not our National Anthem), incorrectly typing all in caps that English is our official language, and promising to boycott Coke because ‘Mericuh. The comments are ugly, ignorant, and dripping with hate. But none is uglier than the comment a Facebook page, We’re All In discovered:

super bowl, coke ad, twitter feed

An American citizen, one who, unless his or her ancestors are Native American, is here thanks to someone traveling to this country from afar, doesn’t think anyone other than white people are Americans. Hundreds, perhaps thousands of Americans, believe the same thing this person believes; we should not welcome diversity, we should shun it, fear it, hate it.

The irony is, “America the Beautiful” is based on a poem written by Katherine Lee Bates. Bates was a lifelong Republican, until she broke with the party in 1924 because of Republican opposition to America joining the League of Nations. By attacking the Coca-Cola ad with racism and xenophobia, people are in fact dishonoring the memory of Katherine Lee Bates, a woman who left the Republican party over their own xenophobia.

Many of the people who were so offended by Coke’s ad are calling for a boycott, and encouraging people to drink Pepsi. Pepsi supports LGBT rights, and given that folks who hate different language and skin color usually hate the LGBT community, this is going to be interesting. Many memes have popped up, suggesting folks who hate the Coke ad for supporting diversity, and hate Pepsi for supporting equality, might enjoy a glass of unfiltered tap water from the Elk River.

Former Republican congressman and presidential candidate, Allen West, was so offended by Coke’s ad, he wrote an entire blog about it. West believes that by highlighting American’s diversity, we are on “the road to perdition.”

America is a country many look to as the shining city on a hill. My own ancestors came here from Europe, struggled, and made lives for their families. Saying that America only has one language is ridiculous, like saying America only has one religion, or one skin color. We are many and we are one. We aren’t a melting pot; we are a gloriously beautiful salad, each ingredient standing on its own while enhancing the entire creation at the same time. That’s America. We are a nation of safety nets for the most vulnerable, a nation that embraces diversity, and a nation with a lady holding a torch who welcomes all to our shores.

Xenophobia has no place in the shining city on a hill.



  1. I think what Elway meant to say is, “I don’t believe in safety nets, except for rich people.” That’s why he’s a Republican.

  2. Rather interesting that Allen West was so offended when one of his “base” (tristin) tweets that his people aren’t even “American”.

  3. Kathrine Lee Bates lived for 25 years with her partner, Kathrine Coman in what was at the time known as a “Boston Marriage”.
    So it seems like the song itself was written by a gay woman.
    Don’t know if she drank Pepsi…

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