Political Divisions Could Put Damper On Super Bowl Merriment

Feb 3, 2017
Originally published on February 3, 2017 5:34 pm
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Super Bowl Sunday - pretty much an American holiday. Atlanta and New England are facing off Sunday in Houston for the NFL title. It's usually an excuse for fans and more fans to flood into the host city and party in the streets. NPR's Tom Goldman wondered if that will hold true this year when we've seen a lot more people speaking out on politics and marching in the streets.

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Hey, Christians, don't you see? Jesus was a refugee.

TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: Last weekend, before the party really started, the anti-Trump protests about immigration that swept the country - they hit Houston, as well. Marchers showed up at Discovery Green, the 12-acre downtown Houston park that's hosting a massive Super Bowl fan festival. But by last night, the Super Bowl bubble separating the world's problems from football and fun had enveloped the park.

DISCLOSURE: (Singing) Now I got you in my space. I won't let go of you.

GOLDMAN: Hundreds of people strolled the Green, and there were no political signs, shirts or hats in sight. Just a lot of Patriot's and Falcon's jerseys and lots of Houston Texan's gear, too. The Super Bowl has been a welcome distraction this year. Although, there have been attempts to pierce the bubble.

WILLIE MCGINEST: Did Trump call you? I'm joking. Don't answer that question (laughter).

TOM BRADY: Not you.

GOLDMAN: That was former New England Patriot's linebacker Willie McGinest - now working for the NFL Network - asking Patriot's quarterback Tom Brady this week about Brady's friendship with President Trump, and that was Tom Brady not answering. Brady has repeatedly deflected the question in Houston. The Patriots are expert at not saying anything controversial. And, really, there wasn't much talk about the president at all inside the bubble.

LEIGH STEINBERG: Nobody here is reading the paper about the latest Trump move (laughter), OK? We're reading the sports section (laughter). And so it's a respite for a week.

GOLDMAN: But legendary sports agent Leigh Steinberg says while heads are buried in the sports pages, they are not, figuratively speaking, buried in the sand.

STEINBERG: There are more charitable role-modeling events going on this week that have the potential to be real change.

GOLDMAN: Steinberg insists the real world, minus the political discord, is alive and well at the Super Bowl, and it'll be a big part of his 30th Annual Super Bowl Party tomorrow. Politicians, Republicans and Democrats, entertainers, athletes, coaches, NFL owners - they'll all mingle during the afternoon event and learn about charities for abandoned kids who go into foster care, for environmental causes, for the fight against domestic violence. There will be a workshop on football-related concussions.

STEINBERG: The only reason that I'm happy about publicizing it is because there's so much negative news.

GOLDMAN: There will be a reminder of that as well this weekend - an anti-Trump march tomorrow downtown. And then Super Bowl Sunday - a demonstration at NRG Stadium - site of the game. Organizer Gina Maganya says it's nothing against the Super Bowl.

GINA MAGANYA: I think we're just taking advantage of the people coming together and being able to spread that message far and wide as far we can spread it.

GOLDMAN: As she spoke you could see and hear the fireworks coming from Discovery Green a couple of miles away. Tom Goldman, NPR News, Houston. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.