Should political messages have a place in sport?

Lady Gaga performed during the Super Bowl LI halftime show. Source: Texas.713 via flickr

By Andrea Gaini

On the night that proclaimed the New England Patriots champions of the 2016 season of NFL, the NGR Stadium in Houston saw another bright star shining on the field during the half-time break: Lady Gaga. After last year’s incredible execution of the National Anthem, the NFL decided earlier this year to give the half-time show space to Lady Gaga, who did not disappoint. In 13 minutes, she took the audience on a journey through the biggest hits of her career such as “Poker Face”, “Born This Way” and “Bad Romance”. However, her incredible performance has not been the only reason for her popularity online and in the news. Lady Gaga started off the half-time show by singing “God Bless America”, but combined with the song “This Land is Your Land” by Woodie Guthrie, which is considered to be a song of protest against racism in the 1950s. Additionally, during the song “A Million Reasons” Gaga walked through the audience and stopped to hug an African-American girl while singing the words “I want you to stay”. These two moments have been considered, by some journalists, as a political message of unity and acceptance in this particular moment of American history. Some have also questioned the appropriateness of political statements like hers, during one of the most important events of the year in the United States.

Lady Gaga said earlier this week that she had no intention to express any statements during the half-time show “apart from the one that she has been supporting throughout her entire carrier”. As a matter of fact, Lady Gaga has always been a very strong supporter of LGBT rights and women’s rights as well as integration and equality. The political and cultural context in which Lady Gaga and everyone else are immersed shapes our vision of the world and the sentiments we feel. Music, as well as any other types of art, are the expression of these sentiments through a vehicle that helps us to interact with other people and exchange different opinions. Any kind of art that doesn’t aim to express emotion will never really provoke the same feelings. The famous French painter Eugene Delacroix, for example, while painting “Liberty Leading the People” was, in his words, “painting for his country” to express his sentiment of pride and patriotism for his country, which had just defeated a new form of authoritarianism that could have taken away what they had gained during the French Revolution.

Furthermore, the question of whether the Super Bowl was an appropriate platform in which to express political views or not raises other issues. When we consider the world we live in today, it seems like any context has now become subject to political influence. In fact, the power of the media has grown exponentially, giving it almost total control over the people’s mind. For example, being represented in the media, no matter how badly, has now become essential to the success of a political campaign i.e. Donald J. Trump. In the past, only a very limited part of the population could take part in the political conversation, nowadays with the growth of the internet and social media anyone can express their opinion and take part in the political discussion, which is absolutely not a bad thing.

However, people are now required to look at the world in a much more critical way in order to recognise where the media is trying to influence us and whether we want to be influenced or not. In my opinion, Lady Gaga’s performance should be considered the application of her right to freedom of speech within her role as a public figure. By doing so, she has shared a message of love and equality for all.

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