The Ballot or The Blackout: Black-led coalition pressures NFL to move 2023 Super Bowl site over voter suppression laws

The Ballot or The Blackout: Black-led coalition pressures NFL to move 2023 Super Bowl site over voter suppression laws

BCN Staff – Feb. 13, 2022 – As over 100 million American prepare to get caught up in the spectacle Super Bowl LWI surrounding the contest between the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles, others are using this year’s 56th edition of the Big Game to draw attention to critical issues facing African American.

For example, Faith for Black Lives, along with a coalition of over 400 faith leaders, are calling on Chairman Roger Goodell and NFL to move next year’s Super Bowl LVII from Arizona due to restrictive voting laws passed by the state’s lawmakers in the recent legislation session. Coalition leaders are also demanding an urgent meeting with Goodell and NFL leadership to discuss the impact of voter suppression, warning that the group is prepared to escalate their demand through disruptive, non-violent direct action if their requests are not met.

In 2021, Arizona passed three restrictive laws intended to limit the time voters can fix their absentee ballots, address signature issues, and allow for the removal of voters from the vote by mail list. The majority of voters harmed by these laws are African American, Latino, and Native American voters, as well as rural voters, and poor and low-income voters, the coalition states.

“Nearly thirty years ago, the NFL relocated Super Bowl XXVII from Arizona because of the state’s refusal to recognize Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. We ask that you take the same action for Super Bowl LVII,” the coalition wrote in a Jan. 27 letter (here) to Goodell. “Are we called to be merely spectators of a sport we love, or are we called to act, as the NFL did the last time it stood up to Arizona? As two of the NFL’s slogans this season are “Inspire Change” and “It Takes All of Us,” who precisely are the us to be inspired, but the very spectators who also happen to be voters?”

“We are closer than ever to midnight for our democracy because Congress refuses to protect the right to vote, now is the time for corporate America to join the fight to redeem the soul of America,” said Rev. Stephen A. Green. “We invite Chairman Goodell to meet with us to discuss moving Super Bowl LVII from Arizona and refuse to invest in states that intend to limit access to the ballot. We intend to escalate our request through nonviolent direct action if our demands are not met promptly.”

Although next year’s game is planned for Glendale, Arizona at State Farm Stadium, 19 other Pro-Trump states have also passed 34 laws impacting the right to vote, specifically targeting communities of color. Those states, including Arkansas, have enacted laws to reduce early voting, restrict access to absentee ballots, and seize control of non-partisan election administration official functions. In addition, extreme partisan gerrymandering threatens access to Black political representation in state and federal elections for the next decade, the group states.

This is not the first time that Black civil rights groups have used their bully pulpit to move the Super Bowl out of Arizona. In 1991, the NFL pulled the 1993 Super Bowl XXVII out of the state after lawmakers there refused to make Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday a state holiday. It became a federal holiday in 1986, but Arizona didn’t make it a state holiday until 1992.

It took Arkansas lawmakers 25 years after Arizona to pass a law in 2017 that made MLK Day a standalone holiday not connected to a state holiday celebrating Confederate general and slaveowner, Robert E. Lee. In the 2021 legislative session, Arkansas also passed more than two dozen new laws that impact that add restrictions to the state’s voting process, including new rules that more difficult to vote by mail and regulations that make it a crime to give food or water to someone in a line to vote. To learn more about the Ballot or The Blackout movement, go here.

Besides those efforts to draw attention to the rise in voter suppression laws, other groups are looking to highlight the NFL’s lack of progress in the hiring of Black coaches. Earlier this month, Former Miami Dolphins head coach Brian Flores is sued the NFL over alleged racial discrimination involving the hiring of Black coaches.

Flores, who was fired by Miami after winning 10 games this season, is seeking class-action status, unspecified damages and changes to ensure the hiring of more Black coaches, coordinators and front office personnel. Of the 32 NFL teams, there are only two Black coaches that oversee a league where about 70% of the players are Black.

In addition to potential protests at the Super Bowl concerning Black and civil rights issues, a growing number of right-wing and Republican groups are calling on U.S. truckers to protest COVID-19 lockdowns and mandates in the U.S., similar to the American Freedom Convoy in Canada. According to the White House, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has sent 500 extra staff to California to prevent disruptions to the Super Bowl in anticipation of trucker protests.


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