Occupy the Super Bowl: Now more than just a slogan.

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 and Balanced” as an phrase of grotesque sophistry. In the reality-based community, “Right to Work” means smashing the state’s unions and making it harder for non-union 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%: a Romney-esque 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.  Over 150 people – listed as 75 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%, with unemployment for African American families at 21%. 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 Gov. 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% 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.”

Occupy the Super Bowl. Now it’s more than just a slogan.

[BTW: I like the Giants, 24-20]

5 Reader Comments | Add a comment

Mitch D - "let the deficits begin" Bush's lying budget dericit director

Crush the workes, eliminate the middle class, create the new serfdom. Hallelujah, we are almost there

Much of these same people who want Right to Work to passed are the very same one in 2008 with their hands held out to be bailed out

Dear Dave

Your message hits it spot on.

Heck Yes there should be protests to Right to Work.

This sounds like a bill Walmart would sponser.


In 2008 these SAME folks who are pushing this Right to Work are much the same ones that said to your Senators and Congressmen"We need TARP money to make sure our CEO'S who though greed took our businesses down the drain get their bonuses"

Troubled Asset Relief Program = Taxpayer money


This Right to Work soo to break up Unions and keep Unions from organizing

Come'on Now!!!

To lower the Wages of people,back in 2008 who BAILED YOU OUT!!!

Is this the thanks folks get for bailing you out is this right to work.

This is Arrogance that stinks to the highest heaven and Egos Beyond the galaxies!!!

Heck yes there should be Occupy the Super Bowl


Yes Police you should join in the protests not defend the sponsers of Right to Work

Come'on Now,Police!!!

Lets see players reaction

Lets wait and see if any high-profile players make statements about during the lead-up to the game, or if they obey their profit-hungry bosses.


Why is it that player apathy/inaction is immediately associated with compliance with the wishes of ownership or at least people with greater influence over their careers? It could be that players couldn't care less and want to worry about football. It always seemed odd that action = player independence whereas inaction = player submission.

Football...100 years ago

"The great foot-ball game between Yale and Princeton came off this afternoon at Manhattan Field, New-York, and resulted happily in Princeton's favor. As a good Princetonian I expected to go, but unhappily the air was chill and a drizzling rain came down. So I stayed at home and was unique. There is sometimes a pleasure in not doing what all the world does. I am not cold; I really have some red blood. At the game I should have caught the enthusiasm and been carried out of myself, and that is well at times, even though it means temporarily being beside oneself and induces a suspicion of buffoonery. The game seems to be still in the ascendant for interest and popularity; yet looking apart at forty or fifty thousand people, swarmed on banks, gazing intently upon trained athletes struggling fiercely within the lines bring strongly to mind suggestions of a reversion to the brutal combats of the Circus Maximus or Colosseum. Is there not a savagery in this gathering to the fight to be in at the death? Is foot-ball a distinctive advance or retrogression in civilization? Is it not high time we got over war and the kicking habit? We should do better than that; we should shorten our feet and lengthen our heads. The virtues of the playing-field have been, I fancy, over praised. Let our universities ripen scholars. What is constantly wanted, what is becoming more and more a political necessity to safeguard the nation is trained intellect." ...November 21, 1896 by Edwin Manners, class of 1877 Princeton........and still true in 2012. High time for occupy to enter the games and our intellect.

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Dave Zirin is the author of the book: "Welcome to the Terrordome: The Pain, Politics and Promise of Sports" (Haymarket). You can receive his column Edge of Sports, every week by going to dave@edgeofsports.com.
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