Super Bowl 50 Halftime Show Makes Political Statement

By Caitlin Conroy,
Sports Business Writer

superbowl controversy

Cam Newton and Peyton Manning were not the only celebrities that were highly debated following the Denver Broncos win against the Carolina Panthers during Super Bowl 50. What was supposed to be a Super Bowl halftime performance that celebrated bringing people together, the performance quickly turned into one that caused division and tension among Americans. The main act, Coldplay, which staged a performance to include bright colors and fun-loving dancing flowers, was overshadowed by the two supporting acts, Bruno Mars and Beyoncé. Since the halftime performance on Feb. 7, 2016, Beyoncé, in particular, has been under fire for what commentators believe was a politically-oriented and controversial performance before the third quarter of Super Bowl 50.

During the fifteen minute act, Beyoncé introduced and performed her new song “Formation”, dressed in black berets and black leather that many commentators and activists attributed to the Black Panther Party. The Black Panther Party for Self Defense was founded in 1966 by Huey P. Newton and Bobby Seale, two college students who were strongly opposed to the continued oppression of the black community in America at the time. The Party was against the violence routinely carried out against black men and women by the police during the 1960s and 1970s . The Black Panther Party has been tied to the Black Lives Matter Movement that has swept across America the past few years.

Commentators debated that Beyoncé used the performance to deliver a powerful message to a massive mainstream audience using one of the highest watched sporting events that is aired live on television. With this performance, critics believe Beyoncé made her stance on the issue of Black Lives Matter extremely clear.

They believe she is looking not only to make music, but to make a difference for a cause that she believes in. Many people have attributed Queen B’s performance to the Black Panther Party because of the “X” formation that she and her backup dancers stood in during the actual performance.

She and her dance team were clothed in black berets and black leather jackets, similar to the typical clothes worn by Black Panther Party members during the 1960s and 1970s.
In addition to the actual performance, backstage photos were posted on the social media platform Instagram of Beyoncé’s dance team in their halftime show costumes raising their fists in the traditional black power salute. Another picture was then tweeted of the team in those same costumes holding a handmade sign that said, “Justice 4 Mario Woods”. The sign was believed to be in reference to a twenty-six year old black man who had been shot and killed in San Francisco a few miles from the Super Bowl site.

Many prominent political figures have outwardly spoken in opposition of Beyoncé’s performance as well as the Black Lives Matter movement. According to CNN, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie has accused the Movement of “calling for the murder of police officers”, while former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani called Beyoncé’s performance a “platform to attack police officers”.

Will Beyoncé’s extremely public stance influence more celebrities to outwardly speak up for causes that they feel strongly about? The potential impact that celebrities and the media can have on Americans is tremendous.  Only time will tell the outcome and the impact that Super Bowl 50’s halftime show will have on the people of the United States.

A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, February 23rd print edition.

Contact Caitlin at


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