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Why I will not watch the Superbowl

Earl Ofari Hutchinson

I will not watch the Superbowl. Let me first back up. I am the consummate NFL junkie. I have watched all or part of nearly every NFL Monday Night game since its start in 1970. I have watched more Sunday night, Thursday night, and Saturday NFL games than many coaches. I have attended countless NFL games in Los Angeles, almost all of them the Superbowl-contender Rams games. I have even traveled to other cities to attend games. Most importantly, I have watched every Superbowl since the first one in 1967. I have even sponsored Superbowl game community parties.

Colin Kaepernick’s anti-police-abuse protest, his subsequent blackballing, and the boycott by many Blacks of the NFL didn’t dampen my NFL passion and support. But this did: former Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores’ potential landmark lawsuit against the NFL charging the NFL owners and management with systemic racism in its non-hiring of Black head coaches.

Flores knows that suing the NFL likely means kissing any chance of a head coaching job goodbye. Here’s why he took a stand. In the most telling line in his suit, he called the NFL a modern-day plantation. The numbers back him up. There are 32 non-Black owners. I use the non-Black qualifier instead of “all-white” only because Jacksonville Jaguars’ owner Shahid Khan is Pakistani-American.

The NFL has done better in hiring Black GMs — there are seven of them. But head coach is the position most visible, prestigious, and identified, the jewel in the NFL crown. In a league where most players are Black, 10 NFL teams have never had a Black head coach. Barring a drastic change, 31 of them on Superbowl Sunday will still not have a Black head coach.

Since the Kaepernick fallout, the NFL has been on a charm campaign to prove it’s not racist. It has paid lip service to backing Black Lives Matter, slapped end-racism slogans on players’ helmets, churned out PSAs touting diversity and shelled out millions to minority community improvement organizations.

Flores, though, is not suing the NFL because the NFL is inherently racist. His problem, and that of other Black aspiring head coaches, is the structure of the NFL and who runs it.

The NFL has been a democracy. It’s a quasi-militaristic, top-down organization run by an entrenched elite core of billionaire “key owners” who set the tone and determine league policy. Some of them trace their NFL family pedigree to the founding of the NFL nearly a century ago. They are mostly conservative Republicans.

Some are very outspoken Republicans, routinely kicking in thousands to GOP candidates. Some have been deeply involved in GOP political campaigns, including serving as finance managers for GOP presidential candidates. They imposed the unspoken blackball of Kaepernick. It’s no surprise that former GOP presidential candidates such as Mitt Romney, Jeb Bush and Donald Trump bragged that some of their tight pals are NFL owners.

Flores is being held captive not to the racism or petty whims of NFL owners, although a healthy dose of that is there too, but to the NFL’s rigid, unyielding arrogance of power, insular structure, and mindset that is virtually immune from outside influence. This was evident in every challenge to the NFL elite, be it the threat of player strikes, contract negotiations, the dust-up over CTE trauma, the criticism it gets for shaking down cities and states to put taxpayers on the hook for everything from luxury boxes to new stadiums.

The NFL has the muscle to keep their books hush-hush and demand players play more games, increasing the injury hazard. It has the muscle to knock down players’ revenue take and not guarantee long-term health benefits.

The fan base is no small point in why Flores may become a pariah. NFL fan loyalists initially shouted down Kaepernick and the Black players when they took a knee or some other tepid gesture during the the national anthem before kickoffs.

Those loyalists are not African American or Hispanic for the most part. They are blue-collar, conservative, middle-class, whites who pack stadiums and plop down tens of millions for tickets and assorted NFL paraphernalia.

NFL power brokers have the supreme dominance to enforce their “take or leave it” imperium on players, fans and politicians. That’s precisely why Flores doesn’t have an NFL job. That’s why I will not watch the Superbowl.

Earl Ofari Hutchinson is an author and political analyst.