Politics are elbowing back into the NFL again ... and this time, the players have nothing to do with it.
The New York Times has reported that Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York City mayor now seeking the Democratic nomination for president, will be purchasing 60 seconds of ad time in the Super Bowl, at an estimated cost of more than $10 million.
Shortly after the Times made the announcement, President Trump’s re-election campaign indicated that it, too, would be buying 60 seconds’ worth of ad space.
In other words: hope you like your Super Bowl nachos served with a big ol’ helping of political argument.
Bloomberg isn’t even disguising his intention: “The biggest point is getting under Trump’s skin,” spokesman Michael Frazier said. Bloomberg has made attacking Trump a central plank of his campaign platform, initially pledging to spend more than $100 million on ads criticizing the president’s record while in office.
Trump, meanwhile, never closed down his campaign after his election. That move, a Trump spokesman told the Times, allowed the Trump campaign to purchase a slot early in the game. It’s not yet clear when Bloomberg’s spot will air.
The Super Bowl thus becomes part of the already-fractious political environment of 2020. The Iowa caucuses will take place the day after the Super Bowl, and Trump is scheduled to deliver his State of the Union address the night after that.
Political ads during the Super Bowl tend to be local spots; the high cost of an ad in the year’s most-watched program tends to be out of reach for most political initiatives. But both Bloomberg and Trump have substantial resources — Bloomberg from his own personal fortune, Trump from a deep war chest of donations — and clearly both see this as a worthwhile expenditure to get the message out.
Yet to be determined: how the viewing audience will react. Despite many fans’ ardent (and vocal) hopes, the idea of sports being some sort of walled garden free from politics has always been a fanciful myth. In this current with-us-or-against-us era, it’s no surprise that the Super Bowl will become a political battleground.
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