THE SUPER OCCUPATION

Having spent most of my life outside of the United States, I’ve never really been a fan of American Football, in fact, I don’t recall ever watching a Super Bowl game. But…. you can be sure I won’t be missing it this year.
Read the following to find out why 😉
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The Vince Lombardi Trophy is awarded to the Super Bowl winner
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Occupy the Super Bowl: Now More Than Just a Slogan.
Dave Zirin 
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“Upsetting the Super Bowl— I couldn’t care less. This is about my life and my family.”   —Lou Feldman, IBEW local 668

The sheer volume of the Super Bowl is overpowering: the corporate branding, the sexist beer ads, the miasma of Madison Avenue–produced militarism, the two-hour pre-game show. But people in the labor and Occupy movements in Indiana are attempting to drown out the din with the help of a human microphone right at the front gates of Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Republican-led state legislature aims to pass a law this week that would make Indiana a “right-to-work” state. For those uninitiated in Orwellian doublespeak, the term “right-to-work” ranks with “Operation Iraqi Freedom” and “Fair & Balanced” as a phrase of grotesque sophistry. In the reality-based community, “right-to-work” means smashing the state’s unions and making it harder for nonunion workplaces to get basic job protections. This has drawn peals of protest throughout the state, with the Occupy and labor movement front and center from small towns to Governor Mitch Daniels’s door at the State House. Daniels and friends timed this legislation with the Super Bowl. Whether that was simple arrogance or ill-timed idiocy, they made a reckless move. Now protests will be a part of the Super Bowl scenery in Indy.

The Super Bowl is perennially the Woodstock for the 1 percent: a Romneyesque cavalcade of private planes, private parties and private security. Combine that with this proposed legislation, and the people of Indiana will not let this orgy of excess go unoccupied. Just as the parties start a week in advance, so have the protests. More than 150 people—listed as seventy-five in USA Today, but I’ll go with eyewitness accounts—marched through last Saturday’s Super Bowl street fair in downtown Indianapolis with signs that read, “Occupy the Super Bowl,” “Fight the Lie” and “Workers United Will Prevail.” Occupy the Super Bowl has also become a T-shirt, posted for the world to see on the NBC Sports Blog.

The protests also promise to shed light on the reality of life for working families in the city of Indianapolis. Unemployment is at 13.3 percent, with unemployment for African-American families at 21 percent. Two of every five African-American families with a child under 5 live below the anemic poverty line. Such pain amidst the gloss of the Super Bowl and the prospect of right-to-work legislation is, for many, a catalyst to just do something.

April Burke, a former school teacher and member of a local Occupy chapter, said to me, “I see right-to-work for what it is: an attack on not only organized labor but on all working-class people.… Because strong unions set the bar for wages, RTW laws will effectively lower wages for all. Rushing the passage of RTW in the State of Indiana on the eve of the Super Bowl is an insult to the thousand of union members who built Lucas Stadium as well as the members of the National Football League Players Association who issued a statement condemning the RTW bill.”

As April mentioned, the NFLPA has spoken out strongly against the bill. When I interviewed Player Association president DeMaurice Smith last week, he said: 

When you look at proposed legislation in a place like Indiana that wants to call it something like ‘right-to-work,’ I mean, let’s just put the hammer on the nail. It’s untrue. This bill has nothing to do with a right to work. If folks in Indiana and that great legislature want to pass a bill that really is something called ‘right-to-work’ have a constitutional amendment that guarantees every citizen a job. That’s a right to work. What this is instead is a right to ensure that ordinary working citizens can’t get together as a team, can’t organize and can’t fight management on an even playing field. So don’t call it ‘right-to-work.’ If you want to have an intelligent discussion about what the bill is, call it what it is. Call it an anti-organizing bill. Fine… let’s cast a vote on whether or not ordinary workers can get together and represent themselves, and let’s have a real referendum.

But Governor Mitch Daniels, who was George W. Bush’s budget director, didn’t get this far by feeling shame or holding referendums. This is the same Mitch Daniels who said in 2006, “I’m not interested in changing any of it. Not the prevailing wage laws, and certainly not the right-to-work law. We can succeed in Indiana with the laws we have, respecting the rights of labor, and fair and free competition for everybody.” In other words, he’s that most original of creatures: a politician who lies.

If Daniels signs the bill before the big game, demonstrations sponsored by the AFL-CIO in partnership with the Occupy Movement will greet the 100,000 people who can afford the pilgrimage to Lucas Oil Field. The NFLPA, I’ve been told by sources, will also not be silent in the days to come. As Occupy protester Tithi Bhattacharya said to me, “If the bill becomes law this week then it is very important for all of us to protest this Sunday. We should show the 1 percent that the fate of Indiana cannot be decided with the swish of a pen by corporate politicians—the Super Bowl should be turned into a campaign for justice and jobs.”

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2 Comments

  1. James said,

    February 2, 2012 at 02:50

    It’s awesome that the players-association is supporting this so clearly.

    Although sports is usually even more of a mindless distraction than the (Hollywood) entertainment industry, it still has the power to put certain issues front and center in many people’s conversations.
    Back in the 30’s, 40’s and fifties, the breaking of the “color bar” was a huge boost to the civil rights movement.
    Just recently, Tim Thomas, the goalie for the NHL Hockey Champions (Boston Bruins) refused to attend the team-meeting with Obama at the White House. He gave a very thoughtful statement explaining his concerns for the expansion of police state America, saying he was neither for the democrats or republicans; and of course, all the sports media whores denounced him royally.
    But these players can do a lot to change people’s minds; especially when they’re organized in a union.

  2. Arthur Askey said,

    February 2, 2012 at 09:30

    The Western preoccupation with sport and war will reach it’s zenith in London 2012, which will be the most militarised Olympics in history, with 13,500 military personnel providing ‘security’ and a budget exceeding £500,000,000. All three services will be represented and will include a missile shield over the Olympic Park, fighter aircraft patrolling the skies, a naval blockade on the river Thames and the army in charged of public transport. Obviously the police are incompetent on matters of public safety.

    Britain’s number one export is weapons so the government (20% of the vote, not quite democratic) see this as a great opportunity to display their wares of destruction and misery on the world stage, all under the guise of protecting the audience and athletes from a manufactured terrorist threat.


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