THE BUSINESS AND POLITICS OF SPORTS
The National Football League's Super Bowl matchup between the Green Bay Packers and the Pittsburgh Steelers probably will draw a lot of people to a television set on February 6, but the game also has a chance to become very political because of the Steelers starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers quarterback has been involved in two highly publicized "incidents" with women and earned a four game suspension from the NFL for whatever happened.
Of course, very few people know what really happened in both cases. But the fact that Roethlisberger is in the national spotlight should spark some attention from national media about athletes and behavior.
Did Big Ben's win over the Jets complete his rehabilitation and his image or should there be a real discussion about Roethlisberger and others not only in the NFL but all sports who have been in trouble?
Don't expect anything from Rupert Murdoch's FOX syndication or his FOX News Channel on the topic. Don't expect people like Kathy Redmond to all of a sudden be on Face the Nation, Meet the Press or This Week discussing jocks and sexual assault. There is no way the National Football League television partners, Murdoch and FOX, General Electric (soon to be Comcast/GE) and NBC, Disney's ABC or Sumner Redstone's CBS would ever touch that type of story.
Kathy Redmond would be a great guest on FOX's Super Bowl pre-game hype show. Redmond was allegedly raped twice by University of Nebraska star Christian Peter at the university in 1991. The university did nothing to punish Peter at the time. Eventually Congressman Tom Osborne, the former Nebraska coach, apologized to Redmond. She founded The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes in 1998.
Needless to say, Redmond isn't a hero to all, particularly in the jock community.
The National Coalition Against Violent Athletes has no place at the Super Bowl table. It is too dangerous to the image of the NFL. Kathy Redmond and her group should be heard however during the Super Bowl lead up, especially with Roethlisberger being so prominent in the game.
Instead there will be the nonsense about how Big Ben has been a good citizen, kept quiet and served his four game suspension. Roethlisberger will be rehabilitated by the media and will just become a loveable, maybe slightly misunderstood fellow. As long as Lawrence Taylor could terrorize offenses during this time with the New York Giants, a lot of stuff off the field was overlooked and during the LT days with the Giants there were some allegations that some people were given money to look the other way at LT's discretions although nothing was ever substantiated. LT was probably just misunderstood as well.
The news will pivot to the last small town NFL team playing another grand old NFL team and the coverage will get silly.
The Super Bowl is serious business however. It was a catalyst behind a holiday in Arizona and changed broadcast rules in the United States. It is like Christmas, the Fourth of July and Thanksgiving rolled into one.
The Super Bowl is after all, America's Holiday. It is the Christmas sales season for fast food pizza, supermarket markets which have Super Bowl sales on snacks, it is a big day for beer sales and there are the commercials which are seemingly more important than the game.
The truth is this. The Super Bowl has an economic impact on virtually every city, town, village and hamlet in New Jersey and the United States because people are throwing parties and buying big screen TVs and food. The Super Bowl has been in the past an agent for change both in Arizona and in the world of television and radio in the United States.
The National Football League pulled a Super Bowl from Arizona and put the political weight of the entity known as the NFL into a lobbying position in the state capital in Phoenix. Arizona "celebrates" Martin Luther King Day as the result of direct intervention by the National Football League in terms of dangling a Super Bowl in front of voters. In 1987, newly elected Arizona Governor Evan Mecham's first act in his new job was to erase Martin Luther King Day from the Arizona calendar as an official state holiday. That decision set off a boycott of the state with entertainers like Stevie Wonder refusing to perform in any venue in Arizona.
Governor Mecham's reasoning was simple. The Arizona legislature in 1986 and Governor Bruce Babbitt, in Mecham's opinion, created the holiday illegally.
The National Football League, in an attempt to help the Phoenix Cardinals owner Bill Bidwill to sell more seats after he misread the Phoenix-area market following the move of his Cardinals from St. Louis to Tempe in 1988, awarded Tempe the January 31, 1993 Super Bowl. But Mecham's decision created a number of problems for the league, specifically the National Football League Players Association was not too keen on playing the NFL's showcase game in a state where a governor took away the holiday and the action was supported by Senator John McCain.
In 1989, the Arizona state legislature approved a law making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday but voters needed to approve the measure. In 1990, Arizonans went to the polls and rejected the making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. Shortly after the voters said no, the NFL said no to Arizona and pulled the January 31, 1993 game from Tempe.
The National Football League after pulling the 1993 game went back to Arizona and laid the cards out on the table telling voters if they approved the holiday in a November 1992 vote, the NFL would award the next available Super Bowl to Tempe. Arizona voters approved the 1992 ballot initiative and five months later the NFL lived up to their part of the bargain and granted Tempe the January 28, 1996 game.
Given the events of the past year in Arizona, it would seem that the National Football League will make another statement with silence. The Super Bowl probably is not returning to Glendale, Arizona any time in the new future and will give the game to "quieter" areas.
Meanwhile, the 2004 Super Bowl changed TV. Janet Jackson has left more of an impression on American society than her brother, the late Michael Jackson, because without Janet Jackson's "wardrobe malfunction" during Super Bowl XXXVIII in Houston, Texas back on February 1, 2004, American's would be getting "live" over-the-air radio and TV, warts and all, since over-the-air radio and TV station owners would not have to worry about being fined for indecent programming whether it is a visual or something said.
American politicians and political appointees or at least those politicians who were pandering for a certain block of voters became prudes and put more teeth into public airwaves indecency laws because of Janet Jackson. Those politicians wanted to protect viewers and listeners who tune into over-the-air radio or TV shows and might be offended by language or nudity. Cable TV, broadband and satellite radio do not have the same restrictions for whatever reason.
That performance changed how America's receive over-the-air TV and radio offerings and gave American conservatives a new rallying point and eventually would introduce a new censorship or morality through the threat of hefty fines against media companies who might be found in violation of "indecency."
Of course "indecency" is in the eye of the beholder and for some members of Congress, it took about 15 hours for them to start screaming about Janet Jackson's exposed breast on the steps of the Capitol in Washington.