Opinion: Football, Freedom & Our Collective Future: The Uniting Force of Super Bowl LVII

State Farm Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, Site of Sunday's Super Bowl game.

Many of us watched anxiously when Damar Hamlin, safety for the Buffalo Bills, collapsed on the field after what looked like a routine tackle. We witnessed response teams run to his aid in under 10 seconds. In wake of this tragedy, sports fans from New York to California shared their support for Hamlin’s recovery and the NFL’s decision to end the game after he was rushed to the hospital.

This felt like one of the few moments in recent history when our country stood united in concern for a Black man’s well-being. Despite team loyalty, political beliefs, or level of interest in sports, we were all concerned for Damar Hamlin’s health.

Imagine if we could unite like this when Black people across America fall not from tackles, but from police brutality or gun violence. If response times took only seconds. Imagine if, when Tyre Nichols or George Floyd died, we unquestionably recognized the seriousness and abnormality of these events like we do when healthy athletes collapse.

Unfortunately, our country has remained divided and desensitized to the killings of Black people and police brutality, now a regular occurrence and frequently consumed in headlines.

While the NFL rushes to remove disturbing graphics of Damar Hamlin being revived on the field, footage of police brutality, hate crimes, and mass shootings remain plastered on the news and social media. Though knowledge is power and witnessing tragedies can be vital to creating awareness and building consensus on what should be a collective pursuit of justice, “we advise our community members to prioritize their well-being when consuming traumatizing media.

When tragic hate crimes are committed so consistently, it has lasting effects on our health, especially that of BIPOC communities” said Diana Gonzalez, YW3CA’s Manager of Equity Initiatives.

Officials and coaches understood that players could not be expected to resume the game after witnessing such a tragic event. To prioritize the mental health of players, the game was suspended. What will it take for society to develop that same response to the countless hate crimes and acts of violence that play out before us?

“The many levels of racialized trauma that being Black in this world creates is daunting,” said Ashley Faison, Advocacy & Volunteer Manager at YW3CA, who understands firsthand the difficulties of returning to “business as usual” after witnessing tragic events. “Much like the murder of George Floyd, the killing of Tyre Nichols triggered deep suppressed feelings, Racial Battle Fatigue. I’m exhausted, however as a woman of color I’m expected to return to ‘business as usual’. Once again, Black people are in mourning … How could you, how could they? So many questions, so much pain!”

What can we learn from our response to Damar Hamlin? Response time matters, team or political loyalty doesn’t. Witnessing trauma is traumatizing, and expecting people to return to life as normal is not sustainable. In the wake of compounding tragedies, progress can still be made. Even in small increments. Even if we simply change our perception. Even if we draw from sports to unite.

At this year’s Super Bowl, progress is being made. For the first time in Super Bowl history, both starting quarterbacks are Black.  Autumn Lockwood will become the first Black woman and the fourth woman ever to coach in a Super Bowl, according to the NFL. Representation matters!

On Sunday, millions of fans across America will come together for viewing parties, tailgates, and other celebrations despite many of their favorite teams not making it to the big game. In fact, several sources predict that over 100 million of us will be watching Super Bowl LVII.

While our country is still divided in its response to police brutality and gun violence, we stand united in sports. Imagine if millions of us could come together to end police brutality and gun violence. Imagine coming together to prevent senseless deaths despite political alignment.

As we celebrate Super Bowl LVII and the history that is being made during the big game, let us recognize the impact that we can have on one another and on racial justice when we unite. We can reshape our future. We can start making history today.

With our mission to eliminate racism and empower women in mind, YW continues to take steps forward to demand justice and promote peace, freedom, and dignity for all. We will continue to do our part to put an end to violence in our communities, and to create a world in which all people but especially women, girls, and people of color can thrive.

To learn more about YW3CA’s commitment to creating communities without violence visit YWCA Tri-County Area’s homepage.


Ashley Abbey is the Marketing and Communication Manager for YWCA Tri-County Area. YWCA Tri-County Area is dedicated to eliminating racism, empowering women, and promote peace, justice, freedom, and dignity for all. YW is a leader in advocacy for women and girls, works to eliminate racism, and empowers women through quality affordable childcare, adult literacy, and a host of programs to support the health and success of women, girls, and families. To learn more visit www.ywcatricountyarea.org.

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