On Sunday, February 5, 2012 the Super Bowl will be held in Indianapolis.  While I’m not a huge sports fan, I always enjoy watching the Super Bowl.  I’ll be especially engaged this year, as the NY Giants represent the state where I grew up, and the Patriots call Boston home, which is where I’ve lived since college.

Regardless of which teams are playing, the Super Bowl is consistently the most watched event every year. Last year’s was the most watched US show ever in history, scoring 111 million viewers, and that broke the previous year’s record of 106.5 million. And this year, the surely-over-100-million people watching the Super Bowl will be exposed to several political statements.

I’m sure many people will balk at the idea of politics mixing with sports – usually they are seen (incorrectly) as being mutually exclusive… a somewhat ‘safe’ topic of discussion rather than the ‘risky’ topics of religion and politics. But politics and the Super Bowl have a history…

In 2010, I missed the first Super Bowl I can remember because I was boycotting CBS’ decision to air an Anti-Choice/Anti-Abortion ad starring Tim Tebow. I could write an entire post about this alone, but the Action VP of the National Organization of Women said it best: “This ad is frankly offensive, it is hate masquerading as love. It sends a message that abortion is always a mistake.” Meanwhile, CBS rejected a liberal ad in which gays were portrayed positively.

And in 2011, after rejecting several controversial commercials (such as one claiming that “Jesus hates Obama”), FOX Sports took in $195 million (the second most profitable Super Bowl in history) for parent-company News Corp, while further solidifying the perception that they are a legitimate company. Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp not only runs FOX Sports, but also runs “the political whorehouse that is FOX News,” as Keith Olbermann likes to say, as well as the Wall Street Journal, and many other purely political and conservative media outlets.

2012 is no different. While there is no Tim Tebow ad, and NBC is much more ethical broadcaster than FOX, there will be several notable ties to politics. Here’s the breakdown:

1) Anti-Choice/Anti-Abortion again takes center-stage at anti-abortion activist Terry Randall has found a loop-hole in Federal Communications Commission law, which says networks cannot forbid a political candidate from running an ad 45 days prior to an election (including primaries) as long as they buy the time. So Randall is running as a fake challenger to Obama, and he is running an ad featuring graphic footage of aborted fetuses in states that have primaries in the next 45 days (Wisconsin, Kansas, Missouri, Minnesota, Oklahoma, Oklahoma, Colorado, and Kentucky).

This, like the Tebow ad of 2010, is a manipulative way to sway public perception away from allowing abortions to occur at all, and therefore actively take away a woman’s right to choose what she does with her own body. It is a common tactic by Anti-Choice (so-called ‘pro-life’) advocates to frame the abortion issue as if women are flippantly deciding to murder a baby simply because they don’t know, or don’t care, what they are doing. This is completely disingenuous. Many women who have abortions do so only because their own lives are at risk, or because the pregnancy has deteriorated to a point such that delivery would not result in life – such as in ectopic or molar pregnancies.

From Rachel Maddow’s eye-opening documentary, The Assassination of Dr. Tiller (can be seen in its entirety at the link):

“They were just all catastrophes.  You don’t pick up and go from NY or Washington or France or New Zealand, and travel to Wichita, Kansas (for an abortion) on a whim.  … Some of them were suicidal.  Some were ridiculously young, like 11 or 12 or 13.  And these women had to meet with a second doctor, who had to agree that this pregnancy represented a threat to their health.  … The patients were already sad to be coming there, and to be barraged by this constant hatred…”                             -Dr. Susan Robinson, OB/GYN, colleague of murdered Dr. Tiller

2) Animal Cruelty: keep your eyes open for a Sketchers ad that uses greyhound racing as a metaphor for how fast their new sneaker can be.

An undercover report from Grey2K shows that the track used for the ad is guilty of extreme animal cruelty.  Witnessed mistreatment includes:

  • muzzling greyhounds while they’re warehoused in dark, cramped kennels
  • providing inadequate exercise out of doors
  • feeding dogs raw meat from diseased animals and animals dead before slaughter
  • running dogs in dangerous conditions
  • ignoring a disturbing frequency (every 3-4 days) of serious injuries like fractured skulls, broken bones, dislocations and muscle tears.

Grey2K circulated a petition on Change.org asking NBC to pull the ad. More than just a local problem in Tucson, AZ, greyhound racing causes “thousands of dogs each year [to] suffer broken legs, cardiac arrest, spinal cord paralysis and broken necks … when the dogs are no longer profitable, they’re killed.”

3) Indiana: The last political point made at this Super Bowl will not be in the form of ad… but rather in locale. The Super Bowl is being broadcast from Indiana, where the Republican controlled legislature just passed, and Governor Mitch Daniels signed, a new anti-union, ‘Right to Work’ law.

Like many Republican-backed bills and laws, the ‘Right to Work’ law is named specifically to make it seem like something it isn’t. It sounds like it’s empowering workers to get jobs in this jobs-crisis we’re currently in, but it’s actually, “a right to work without representation. The right to work at the lowest possible wage with little or no benefits, and no way to negotiate for better working conditions.” -insightful YouTuber Jack194343

This also puts Indiana in an awkward position by hosting the Super Bowl, because the NFL is a union entity. If you don’t believe the person I quoted above, here’s the NFL players union’s input: ” ‘Right-to-work’ is a political ploy designed to destroy basic workers’ rights. It’s not about jobs or rights, and it’s the wrong priority for Indiana.”

As Keith Olbermann pointed on the January 6th, 2012 edition of Countdown: “Studies throughout the US show that ‘right to work’ laws reduce wages by $1500 a year for both union and non-union workers, lower the likelihood that employees get healthcare or pensions through their jobs, and have no impact whatsoever on job growth.”

When the law passed earlier in the week, 3000 protestors marched from the Capitol building to the Lucas Oil Stadium, where the Super Bowl will be played.

In addition to the ‘right to work’ law, a story just broke today that Indiana’s Republican Secretary of State and election chief, Charlie White, is guilty of voter fraud. Since this makes him ineligible to hold office, the civil judge ordered his 2010 Democratic challenger to be installed in office.

Also, Occupy Wall Street is partnering with NFL and Indiana labor unions, who are looking to use the Super Bowl to garner attention for the plight of Indianapolis’ Hyatt Hotel workers. They are some of the lowest paid in the nation, as Indianapolis is the largest American city without a unionized hotel. And as the Hyatt corporation is set to make millions of dollars off of Super Bowl tourism the just announced job cuts.

And because of these events, the Super Bowl comes at a time when the governor, state Republicans, and Indiana corporations would like the national spotlight to be far away from them… but they’re about to get about 111 million eyes focused squarely on them.