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The Politics Of The Super Bowl


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. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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