The most violent sport on earth is holding its championship game in Miami and thousands of tourists - 330,000 by some counts - will be descending on South Florida for the Super Bowl. Miami will host it for a record eleventh time, cementing its role as the league’s preferred venue for the big game.
A cursory look at just a few local stories in recent days show why Miami is so coveted by organizers. From subsidized hotel rooms for the millionaire players of teams owned by billionaires, to phantom events raking in millions from city coffers, the mendacious opportunism of our municipal leaders is legendary. But, this year brings more than the usual grifters, plane-loads of shoulder pads, helmets and bright lights.
Coupled with the prospect of a President who could be removed from office before next Sunday’s kickoff and our own County Mayor announcing a run for Congress with an endorsement from the embattled President last week, the first visit of the San Francisco 49ers to Miami since one Colin Kaepernick donned a cotton t-shirt featuring Malcom X and Fidel Castro is the perfect chance to examine the undercurrents driving the country’s increasing level of inequality and polarization.
Even as poisonous invectives were lobbed at Kaepernick in 2016 for supporting “the dictatorship”, Carlos Giménez was getting ready to institute Trump’s anti-immigration policies, distinguishing himself as the first Mayor in the entire country to drop Miami’s status as a Sanctuary City, in accordance with Trump’s EO and publicly defending the detention of thousands of undocumented children at the Homestead detention facility.
“If you tried to do this in Cuba, you would be in jail!”, was the painfully ironic refrain used by many of Kaepernick’s Cuban-American detractors. The former 49ers quarterback’s message of resistance to the Black community through the use of symbols known for their defiance of America’s historical oppression of marginalized populations at home and abroad, was studiously ignored by nationally-syndicated media personalities, whose facile analysis is so prevalent in American media since the advent of “embedded” journalism, came off as disingenuous, at best, and the basest sophistry, at worst.
If Colin Kaepernick were still playing quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, today, there would likely be protests all along Calle Ocho and the County Mayor might even dare to make a public statement in support. Sports talk people would be righteously nodding their heads from their pop-up sets on Lummus Park and telling Kap he shouldn’t have expected anything less, barley understanding how they are promoting the leading voices for American establishment regime-change wars in Latin America, like Marco Rubio.
But, would any of the 25 shows broadcasting live from South Beach say a peep about Miami Gardens, a city with the 4th largest African American population in the U.S. and site of the actual game at Hard Rock stadium, losing out on much of the expected $500 million-dollar windfall to adjacent areas like Brickell, Miami Beach and Downtown Miami because of entrenched class and racial divisions?
Would they talk about Carlos Giménez’ own son working as a lobbyist to bring Formula 1 racing to the City of Miami Gardens against the expressed wishes of its own residents, while the Mayor, himself, threw legal hurdles against them from the County dais?
Would the case of a Cuban-American police captain, with an infamous record of bigotry and racism, standing at the podium in City Hall and calling himself a Black man to the face of an actual Black City Commissioner make any air time?
It’s highly unlikely, because Colin Kaepernick was not only biting off the hand that fed him when he took a knee during the national anthem and wore that t-shirt as a symbol, he was jeopardizing the entire propagandistic enterprise of the NFL.
Colonial Flag Football
When it comes to the use of symbols to craft a message, few can compete with the NFL. As the city gets ready for Super Bowl 54, league and team colors are displayed on every available surface of our urban core. Bayfront Park, in Downtown Miami, has erected a makeshift NFL theme park where visitors can walk on hash-marked Astroturf flanked by golden fiberglass footballs commemorating the league’s centennial anniversary. Each giant football sits on a base where a tiny speaker plays old and uninterrupted football game commentary.
Nostalgia is what the NFL really sells to its customers. Store racks of retired player jerseys, over-the-top film narrations of seasons past, the “Hall of Fame” and its interlocking relationship to the country’s storied universities, all contribute to make it the most popular sports league in the country with the most loyal fan base. The memories go deeper than mere replays of athletic prowess or draft day polemics; the National Football League rallies the national collective mind around a central tenet of foundational American mythology: Settlers vs Indians.
This year’s Super Bowl features one of the most obvious matchups. The San Francisco 49ers, named after a lionized subset of American settlers whose daring-do and ambition is considered to be a touchstone in the story of how the “West was won”, will face the Kansas City Chiefs. Taken from the old French, the word “Chief”, was and continues to be used as a slur of Native Americans. Other than the prominent spearhead used as their logo and a horse-riding Indian in a headdress to rile the home crowd, these “Chiefs” are as faceless to the football-watching American public as the ones massacred at Wounded Knee.
In Army training manuals “Indian Country” means enemy territory; a term, which harkens back to the days of Native genocide when European settlers used to organize into war parties to raid Indian villages, killing men, women and children indiscriminately. The U.S. military is the NFL’s biggest sponsor and hands NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell, tens of millions of dollars every year to market the various branches of the world’s most powerful war machine.
On the eve of the California Gold Rush, the 11th President of the United States, declared his intentions to expand the borders of the nascent country with the following words in his inaugural speech:
Our Union is a confederation of independent States, whose policy is peace with each other and all the world. To enlarge its limits is to extend the dominions of peace over additional territories and increasing millions. The world has nothing to fear from military ambition in our Government.
California, Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming would all become United States territory at the end of the Mexican-American war, marked by the signing of the Treaty of Guadalupe in the Spring of 1848, which included the cessation of Texas by the Mexican government. That Summer in 1848, a carpenter working on a site in Northern California noticed a shiny residue on a piece of wood.
What followed was the inexorable destruction of a fertile Western region, the wholesale killing of its Indigenous people and the birth of the modern-day extraction technologies, which are leading us to the brink of global environmental collapse. This is what is celebrated through the symbols of the National Football League. The game this Sunday is a symbolic ritual, itself.
After the Airforce, joined for the first time by the Marines and the Navy, do their flyovers, J-Lo and Shakira will be there for the halftime show, fooling you into celebrating it with them.