The Politics Of The Super Bowl NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to longtime NFL insider Amy Trask, former Oakland Raiders CEO, about all the politics swirling around the Super Bowl, and what she thinks of this year's matchup.

The Politics Of The Super Bowl

The Politics Of The Super Bowl

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NPR's Lulu Garcia-Navarro talks to longtime NFL insider Amy Trask, former Oakland Raiders CEO, about all the politics swirling around the Super Bowl, and what she thinks of this year's matchup.


It's Super Bowl Sunday, as if you didn't know. More than 100 million people are expected to watch the Atlanta Falcons with quarterback Matt Ryan face off against the New England Patriots and superstar quarterback Tom Brady. And you thought this would be an escape from politics?


UNIDENTIFIED REPORTER: Nothing but praise from Tom Brady when it comes to Donald Trump.


TOM BRADY: Like I said, he's been a friend of mine. He's supported our team. He's for the Patriots.


PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: Great friends of mine - great, great champion, unbelievable winner.


LADY GAGA: I believe in the spirit of equality and the spirit of this country as one of love and compassion and kindness.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: That voice is, of course, Lady Gaga, the outspoken pop star who's headlining the Super Bowl halftime show.

In today's edition of Out Of Bounds, our weekly conversation about sports and culture, we're going to talk about the politics surrounding the year's biggest football showdown.


GARCIA-NAVARRO: We're joined by an NFL insider, Amy Trask. She's the former CEO of the Oakland Raiders.

Thanks so much for being with us today.

AMY TRASK: Thanks for having me.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Is the Super Bowl supposed to really bring people together, forget their political troubles? Or do you think that, you know, we're unable to do that, you know, at this moment?

TRASK: You know, one of the things I observed and I enjoyed over the course of my career is looking through our stadium during a game and seeing fans from every location, every age, every ethnicity, race, religion, men, women, old, young - enjoying those moments together and looking around and seeing every single person embraced in collective ecstasy. That's something tremendous that sport offers us. And I always hoped that people would remember that moment of commonality when disagreeing on other topics.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: You've gone on the record, though, supporting football players, for example, who make political statements on the field. I'm thinking, of course, of Colin Kaepernick. Do you think that the Super Bowl should be a place where people talk about politics and show their political allegiances?

TRASK: That, in my view, is an individual decision. You know, I grew and grew up within an organization which did involve itself in such things, and I loved that. I also respect that other people may not share my view and that they may choose to have a bright line between their love for sports and then their interest in social issues.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: How do you think the NFL is handling it, though - thinking in particular of the NFL's decision to omit parts of the Tom Brady press conference transcript that dealt with politics? Should it have just been honest and included that?

TRASK: I don't know what the NFL's motivation was in omitting that language. Was it a conscious decision at a very senior level, or was it simply someone more junior saying - oh, what the heck? - I'm going to leave this out. Now at the end of the day, it was omitted. I don't like that. I think if you're going to purport to issue a transcript of a conversation, then the transcript should be full.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: Enough about politics - we're just going to just talk about the game. I do want to get your take about the matchup tonight. Are you placing any bets?

TRASK: I am not a gambler, so I will not be placing any bets - you know, perhaps maybe an I'll-bet-you-an-ice-cream-cone sort of bet.


TRASK: And I take my ice cream bets very seriously.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: (Laughter) Good to know.

TRASK: I think this is a fascinating chess matchup between the head coach that I believe is the best of all time in Bill Belichick versus a very, very well-coached team in Atlanta.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: So your prediction?

TRASK: On paper, intellectually looking at the X's and O's in the matchup, I think Atlanta has the edge. But because of my knowledge of Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots, I'm inclined to say New England. I simply can't decide. I will tell you this, though - I think the game is going to be won or lost at the line of scrimmage, as most games are. And if New England can find a way to knock Matt Ryan around a little bit from the get-go or Atlanta can do that to Tom Brady, that's going to go a very, very long way to deciding this game.

GARCIA-NAVARRO: All right. Amy Trask, former CEO of the Oakland Raiders and author of "You Negotiate Like A Girl: Reflections On A Career In The National Football League," thank you so much for being with us.

TRASK: Thank you for having me. It's always my privilege and pleasure to join you.

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Super Bowl Ads 2017: What Works, What Doesn't And What Gets Political

In today's hyper-fast media climate, who has time to wait for the Super Bowl to actually see the commercials?

There are a few advertisers who will make us wait until the Big Game to see their wares – Snickers plans a live commercial with Adam Driver which will be Must See TV whether it works or not. Weeks ago, many advertisers started posting online teasers, previews and actual commercials airing in Sunday's game. (Beermaker Anheuser-Busch reportedly held a "media briefing" on its ads strategy with journalists last month).

Makes sense. These companies are paying up to $5 million for 30 seconds of advertising time to the Fox network for space in a game that is often the most-watched TV event of the year. With that much at stake, a media strategy that doesn't include some pre-game day viewing seems like a missed opportunity.

Just like with TV shows, ads that move audiences can tell us a lot about what values inspire or alarm us. And those notions can change on a dime – I'm betting Anheuser-Busch never expected its inspiring story about the immigration struggles of founder Adolphus Busch to be seen as a dig at President Donald Trump.


But it's tough to watch scenes in its ad titled "Born the Hard Way," where Busch initially faces angry Americans telling him, "you're not wanted here... go back home," without thinking of Trump's executive order on immigration and the fiery debate it has kicked off.

Here's a look at some of the most interesting Super Bowl commercials coming Sunday – including a few that are compelling for reasons their creators likely never intended.

Bud Light: Ghost Spuds. The Weird But Kinda Works award goes to Budweiser for its ad featuring the ghost of its former Bud Light mascot, the party dog Spuds MacKenzie, voiced by actor Carl Weathers. At first, it's odd to be reminded that the dog which actually played the original Spuds in late 1980s ads is no longer with us. But watching the "ghost" lead a schlubby guy to realize the value of friendship through beer is kinda entertaining – and pretty much the spirit of a lot of Super Bowl revelry.


Audi: Daughter. As the father of three daughters, I was all in for this ad featuring a young girl beating several boys to win a downhill cart race while her dad voices fears about how sexism will affect her, asking, "do I tell her... she will automatically be valued as less than every man she meets?" By the time the screen announces "Audi of America is committed to equal pay for equal work," I'm drying my eyes and thinking about a vehicle upgrade.


Ford: Go Further. Complaints about commercialism may seem quaint these days. But it's still jarring to see Ford use Nina Simone's rendition of the civil rights anthem "I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free" to illustrate scenes where people are frustrated by being stuck in traffic or locked out of the house. When Simone sang about wanting to "break all the chains holding me," I don't think she meant sidestepping traffic tie-ups.


Mercedes-Benz USA: Easy Driver. One notch down the commercialism disappointment scale, we find the Mercedes-Benz ad featuring Peter Fonda. Stories about Baby Boomers selling out are nothing new. But it's still odd to see a guy who once embodied '60s counter culture in Easy Rider star in a commercial with hordes of bikers acting like knuckleheads until they are struck dumb by the sight of a relatively clean-cut Fonda, peeling out of a parking lot in a $350,000 AMG-GT Roadster. Insult to injury: the commercial was directed by Fargo's Oscar-winning filmmakers, Joel and Ethan Coen.


Honda: Yearbooks. Lots of celebrities are doing lots of interesting ads (it seems like New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski pops up in every other commercial). But my award for Best Use of a Big Name goes to this ad, which animates old, mostly embarrassing high school yearbook photos of celebrities like Robert Redford, Amy Adams and Viola Davis to tell viewers dreams really do come true. Even for guys geeky enough to try rocking the pornstar moustache Steve Carrell sports in his photo ("You think any of these folks believed that I'd make it?" he asks. Surely not.)


Squarespace: Who is I'm always telling journalism students to get ownership of their name as a URL for their websites soon as possible. So it was a tickle to see John Malkovich in this ad begging a fisherman to let him have his own name back. Extra points to Malkovich for always being willing to poke fun at his own eccentric image.


Febreeze: Halftime #BathroomBreak. We all know what happens in bathrooms across the country between the halftime whistle and halftime show. Do we really need a TV commercial to remind us some air freshener may be needed?


84 Lumber: The Journey Begins. This 90-second ad features a Spanish-speaking mother and her young daughter enduring loads of hardships – jumping on trains, walking long distances, crossing rushing streams – to reach their destination. The company has said Fox rejected the original version of the ad, which included images of a border wall similar to the one President Trump has promised to erect between Mexico and the U.S. Now 84 Lumber's website promises it will feature the full ad at halftime, with "content deemed too controversial for TV." The wall-less version which will air on Fox Sunday certainly humanizes people who are too often reduced to stereotypes in today's immigration debates. I don't know how much lumber this ad will sell, but it will surely earn loads of attention.