Written by Damien Crisp (Zuccotti)
Dust off your television. Attend a Super Bowl XLVIII party. Throw one. Make vegan snacks. Make anti-capitalist pamphlets with colorful pictures of the Seattle Seahawks... or, I mean, the 99%. Find a good sports bar and subvert it. Occupy football language. Insert slogans. Be quick with your facts. Start conversations. Who is your team? “The 99%”. You want to see Denver... I mean the 1%, go down in a ball of flames and left behind crying on the football field when the night ends. Invite your dad over to watch the game. Invite co-workers. Neighbors. Tell them about the battle between the 99% and the 1%
The game of American football is beautiful as movement and strategy, a slow but dramatic event, and I understand why fans are driven to support the games year after year. On a deeper level, Super Bowl XLVIII symbolizes the contest between the 1%—who have only increased their monopoly over a corrupt 30 year reign—and the 99%—a fractious mass of everyone else increasingly unified around calls for economic justice.
Occupy does not need to claim, redefine or save football. Occupy needs to hijack the event’s meaning. Our movement can’t afford commercial airtime to address the world directly, so we must run interference and attack dominant culture at the level of imagination.
Occupy should hijack the meaning of Super Bowl XLVIII. One team will represent the 1%. One team will represent the 99%. We will invade every living room, every tailgate party and every sports bar. Refuse to use the words “Seattle” and “Denver”. Drive Super Bowl fans mad while insisting on a real conversation about economic violence.
Does Denver or Seattle deserve the label “home of the 99%”?
All NFL teams declare themselves representatives of their cities. We need to know which city - Denver or Seattle - most represents the people over profits. Super Bowl’s are advertised as contests between cities. We also need to consider which team most represents the people over profits.
I chose the Seattle Seahawks as the true Occupy team. As a city and as a team, Seattle comes closer to what we want in an advocate for economic justice. You could choose Denver. Either way, we can create conversations around this single event but let me tell you why I chose Seattle.
Like many cities U.S. Seattle and Denver have increasingly reconstructed their social make-up. Both cities have developed into gentrified zones. In 2012, blogger Michael J. Petrilli created a list of the fastest gentrifying neighborhoods in the US. He relied on counting the “white share” of zip codes. It is a crude test but gentrification is class violence often tied race and displacement of marginalized communities. Denver is number 11 on Petrilli’s list. Seattle is not on the list. Denver’s “white share” of population increased 29.2% to 56.2%, 2000 to 2010.
Remember the Battle of Seattle? Seattle has the spirit of resistance in its past and present even though it faces gentrification by forces such as Microsoft and the city’s previous Mayor McGinn who worked hard for real estate developers. Seattle’s current Mayor Murray recently raised wages of all city workers to $15 per hour. He has worked to reform the culture of the city’s police. Murray is the city’s first openly gay mayor. As a senator, Murray led the state’s winning legislation for same-sex marriage.
Just this Wednesday, Seattle’s city council member delivered the best response to President Obama’s State of the Union Address. Kshama Sawant declared, “Tonight, President Obama talked about the deepening inequality. But that is a testament of his own presidency. A presidency that has betrayed the hopes of tens of millions of people who voted for him out of a genuine desire for fundamental change away from corporate politics and war mongering. Poverty is at record-high numbers - 95% of the gains in productivity during the so-called recovery have gone to the top 1%. The president’s focus on income inequality was an admission of the failure of his policies. An admission forced by rallies, demonstrations, and strikes by fast food and low wage workers demanding a minimum wage of $15. It has been forced by the outrage over the widening gulf between the super-rich and those of us working to create this wealth in society.”
Meanwhile, Denver tends to sell development for business and real estate - gentrification - using the language of misleading rhetoric laiden with pretense towards progressive community action.
“Stimulus funds aimed at jumpstarting the economy paid for about 4,000 trees in Denver, with many ending up at million dollar homes in Denver’s priciest neighborhoods where residents acknowledge they could have paid for their own trees...”, CBS News Denver reported in September 2013, “... that the tree program had no income guidelines, so trees ended up being planted at homes in Denver’s Country Club neighborhood, Hilltop, Belcaro and Washington Park neighborhoods — all considered upscale areas of the city.”
Denver’s mayor seems to be a leader in local gentrification. He recently co-opted plans by the Parks and Recreation department to renovate a park and began a kind of architectural invasion that inspired protests by site’s neighbors. The project was called City Loop: “Food trucks for families on the go. A soft track for jogging geezers. Hammocks for summer slackers and an ice rink for Winter Olympics hopefuls. Comfort stations for the uncomfortable. All it lacks is what the initial project description insisted it would have: community context and advocacy.” Denver’s mayor is antagonistic to the legalized pot industry. He also led a police crackdown on lower Denver bars and customers. LoDo is an area of bars where crowds gather on weekends. Real estate security. It’s safe to assume this tactic led towards further gentrification and sterilization.
Seattle’s team is the game’s underdog. Denver’s team is a football dynasty. Seattle is a defensive team. To play defense well, players have to work for each other. A defensive position is a defiant position. Denver has long been an offensive team featuring star quarterbacks and crowd pleasing acrobatics. Teams with spectacular offenses are favored by corporate America. Smiling quarterbacks sell products well. Offensive players tend to earn more than defensive players. Denver’s quarterback, Peyton Manning, makes $15,000,000 each year from his team salary. His Seattle counterpart, Russell Wilson, “makes just 3.5 percent of Manning’s base salary”.
I think we have the team of the 99%. Occupy, our team is: Seattle.
Super Bowls, of course, are commercial spectacles aired more the delivery of television ads than love of the game. Football purists often say they don’t like the Super Bowl. It is too commercial. It is also a perfect target.
A Super Bowl’s ending - which fades as it replays across mainstream media until it is forgotten - always marks a new Spring to be remembered.
A pep talk for the 99%...
“We are in hell right now... Believe me. And we can stay here and get the shit kicked out of us or we can fight our way back into the light… One inch, at a time… The inches we need are everywhere around us… either we heal now, as a team, or we will die as individuals. That's
football occupy… That's all it is.”
This post was adapted from Watch This Year's Super Bowl Through the Smoke of Class Warfare
Damien Crisp is an artist, writer and activist. He has lived in New York City, Guadalajara. Mexico, and currently lives in southeast Tennessee. His writings can be followed on social media, blogs, and have been re-published widely online. He was a body, voice and citizen journalist during Occupy Wall Street's time at Zuccotti Park, as well as a coordinator for Occupy Sandy. His artwork includes painting, photography, installation, objects, text and video. He graduated from the University of Tennessee's painting program at Knoxville in 2005, and received his MFA from the School Of Visual Arts in New York in 2007.