Top 4 Political Reasons to Root for, or Against, a Team in the Super Bowl

Forget about favorites—football can be about politics, too.

Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers being introduced prior to the NFC Championship Game between the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C.
Cam Newton of the Carolina Panthers being introduced prior to the NFC Championship Game between the Panthers and the Arizona Cardinals Jan. 24, 2016, in Charlotte, N.C. Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

Super Bowl Sunday can bring up a whole slew of emotions for people across the sports and nonsports spectrum. Decades of marketing have turned it into a de facto American holiday that everyone is supposed to care about. So even if you don’t care about football, you feel pressured to attend, like when you go to a New Year’s Eve party when you’d rather order Chinese takeout and stay home.

Fortunately, this year’s Super Bowl has plenty of cultural and political reasons for you nonsports fans to pay attention, giving you a reason to root for a team even if you don’t care about the game itself.

Here are the top four nonsports reasons to root for a team in the Super Bowl:

1. Cam Newton, Making History

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton can make a hater out of all of us. He’s a Heisman Trophy winner, the first African-American quarterback to win an NFL MVP (back in ’03, they forced Steve McNair to share the award with Peyton Manning) and one of the most successful quarterbacks in the history of the Carolina Panthers franchise. With that history already in his lap, Newton will be the fourth consecutive African-American quarterback to play in a Super Bowl, something that has never happened in NFL history. (Thanks, President Obama!)

More politically, Newton should be a favorite of any left-leaning Super Bowl viewer. He’s come out in favor of gay marriage and has strongly stated that he would welcome any openly gay player to the Carolina Panthers. He invited the family of one of the Charleston, S.C., mass-shooting victims to be his special guests at the Carolina Panthers’ final game last season. The man even got some of his teammates together to help push someone’s car that broke down on the side of the road.

Lastly, Newton has been the catalyst for more white tears in sports than Serena Williams, Gabby Douglas, LeBron James and Richard Sherman combined. Newton’s confidence, marketable good looks and penchant for turning the “dab” into a new national dance has the crusty old racists in the NFL longing for the good ol’ days when all the quarterbacks were white and occasionally had questionable pasts. If you’re looking for someone to root for during a Black History Month Super Bowl, you can’t do much better than Cam Newton, who has shown that you don’t have to smooth the edges off blackness to be a successful QB in the NFL.  

2. Peyton Manning, Pitch God for the GOP

While there’s no comparison between the dance moves of Peyton Manning and Newton’s, that doesn’t mean the Broncos’ quarterback isn’t worth rooting for. The NFL has had two golden boy quarterbacks over the last 20 years: the New England Patriots’ Tom Brady and Manning, who has five NFL MVPs, has appeared in three Super Bowls (lost two of them) and is the world’s biggest pitchman, selling everything from DirecTV to Papa John’s to Ritz crackers.

Politically, Manning is the guy you want to root for if you’re a conservative. He has come out as aggressively ambivalent on gay players in the NFL but has actively given to Republican candidates across the country who oppose lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights. Manning is very selective about who he gives money to; he supported former Sens. Fred Thompson and Richard Lugar, who spent their entire careers trying to kill affirmative action, and Manning also came out in favor of Mitt Romney in 2012.