Dear Editor: So, the highly anticipated Super Bowl 2019 championship game is over, and New England Patriots quarterback, Tom Brady, is being widely hailed as a “hero” for winning an unprecedented sixth Super Bowl title. But, as far as I am concerned, the real hero of Super Bowl 2019 is not Tom Brady. Rather, it is Barbados’ cultural Ambassador, Robyn “Rihanna” Fenty!
Rihanna is “the” Super Bowl hero simply because it was her highly principled and courageous stance of standing in solidarity with black activist footballer, Colin Kaepernick, and rejecting the National Football League’s offer to be the featured performer at the highly prestigious Super Bowl half-time show, that will be forever remembered as the distinguishing heroic act of Super Bowl 2019!
Let us recall that during the 2016 to 2017 American football season, Colin Kaepernick — the black quarterback of the San Francisco 49’ers football team — took to protesting against systemic US anti-black racism in general, and white racist police killings of African-Americans in particular, by publicly kneeling (rather than standing at attention) during the playing of the US national anthem.
At the time, Kaepernick explained his stance as follows: “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of colour. To me, this is bigger than football……..There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Needless-to-say, Colin Kaepernick was punished by the powers that be for his bold, principled, and positively disruptive gesture of protest. Not only did United States President Donald Trump publicly call for him to be fired, but not one single National Football League (NFL) club would hire the highly talented Kaepernick for the 2018 to 2019 football season!
It is against this background that our Rihanna stepped forward and stood up for Colin Kaepernick — and by extension — for the cause of black freedom and justice that Kaepernick so superbly represents and symbolizes.
In turning down the NFL’s offer to perform at the Super Bowl half-time show, Rihanna was turning down an opportunity to perform before a massive global audience of in excess of 100 million persons, as well as turning down the opportunity to benefit from a host of future lucrative Super Bowl-related commercial endorsements.
But, just as Colin Kaepernick was clear that some things are “bigger than football”, Rihanna was demonstrating that she too was clear that some things are bigger than entertainment spectacles and financial benefits!
And so, we Barbadians would be failing in our duty if we do not publicly acknowledge and record that our Rihanna performed a truly significant and heroic act when she stood up not merely for Colin Kaepernick, but for all people of colour, and for the sacred principles of freedom and justice.
Citizen of Barbados