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Super Bowl: The Greatest Political Show on Earth

Saturday, 2 February 2013 - 4:22pm IST Updated: Saturday, 2 February 2013 - 4:25pm IST | Agency: Daily Telegraph

Gays, race, and gun control, here is how the Super Bowl has become the Greatest Political Show on Earth.
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It is routinely billed as the Greatest Show on Earth - but this year it has become a platform for far more than sportsmen, cheerleaders, and the infamous half-time show.

In the past few weeks, the Super Bowl, the centrepiece of American sport, has taken on a distinctly political feel.

Social issues such as same-sex marriage, gun control, racial equality and poverty in Ethiopia have all been on the agenda. One coach went even further, using Super Bowl week to declare his interest in running for political office.

Even President Barack Obama decided to jump on the bandwagon, wading into one of football's most controversial topics: the risk of head injury. "I have to tell you if I had a son, I'd have to think long and hard before I let him play football," the president said.

It has all contributed to the feeling that the Super Bowl has become much more than simply a sporting event.

Sunday's game will see the Baltimore Ravens meet the San Francisco 49ers in New Orleans, Louisiana. It is the first time the game has been held there since the city was devastated by Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

As always, the game will be one of the most watched events of the year. Of the 44 most watched television broadcasts in US history, 21 of them are Super Bowls.

This year's half-time show will feature the pop star Beyonce in her first performance since it was revealed she lip-synched the national anthem during the presidential inauguration last month. The outcry that followed forced the singer to reassure fans that her Super Bowl performance would be live.

Among the usual hype over which team will emerge victorious, some surprising topics have taken centre stage.

Gay marriage and equality were put to the fore by the Ravens' linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo. "I was raised around gay people in a very liberal society," the married father of two said, explaining his desire to use his profile to promote the cause at the Super Bowl. "Discrimination was never allowed."

He is not alone in his efforts. The San Francisco 49ers was the first team in the NFL to take part in a campaign to combat anti-homosexual bullying in schools.

However, hopes that this Super Bowl could go some way to alleviating perceived homophobia in football - there are no openly gay players in the NFL - suffered a blow when 49ers cornerback Chris Culliver said he would not want homosexual players on his team. Culliver, who later apologised, said: "I don't do the gay guys man. I don't do that."

Gun control, an issue at the forefront of American politics, will also be touched upon. Before the game, pupils and families from Sandy Hook elementary in Connecticut, where 20 children and six adults were shot dead in December, will take to the field to sing America the Beautiful.

Racism has also briefly surfaced, with three black former NFL coaches claiming that there are still too few black head coaches in the league.

The week has also seen Anquan Boldin, a Ravens receiver, talk about poverty in Ethiopia. "They're going through one of the worst droughts ever... For people in the United States, it's hard to wrap your mind around that," he said.

But the prize for the most naked use of the Super Bowl for political gain must go to the Ravens' kicking coach Randy Brown. Already the mayor of Evesham township in New Jersey, Brown has thrown his hat in the ring for the job of state governor. "I checked the governor can't run again in 2017, so that seat's around," the 45-year-old Republican said. "I would never close my eyes to it."


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