Super Bowl 50: Super Militarization and Super Inequality by Sharat G. Lin

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The most expensive single sports game on Earth kicked off under unprecedented militarization of the police and the highest levels of inequality since the Great Depression.

As the biggest sporting game in the United States, thousands of law enforcement and security personnel from nearly every conceivable agency have converged on Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, California for Super Bowl 50. But the outfits, weapons, vehicles, and communications equipment are increasingly those of the military.

Santa Clara Police were seen dressed in military camouflage and army helmets as if prepared for urban warfare. They were riding around in new all-terrain vehicles purchased especially for the Super Bowl. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s deputies wore new green uniforms. A dozen bomb squad units, including units from other counties, were gathered near Levi’s Stadium.

Army humvees were everywhere — guarding rear access to Levi’s Stadium and its parking structure and patrolling the streets. Military police were present with M-16 submachine guns. Army helicopters flew overhead with soldiers ready to jump on a moment’s notice.

Federal law enforcement agencies had set up temporary communications towers in the vicinity of Levi’s Stadium, and a command center nearby.

While a major police presence is not surprising considering the magnitude of the crowds and the intense national visibility of Super Bowl 50, one wonders against whom the police, the Department of Homeland Security, and the Pentagon are apparently preparing for urban warfare?

The 50th Super Bowl in Levi’s Stadium is the easily the single most expensive event to come to Silicon Valley. With an economic impact conservatively estimated at over a billion dollars and game tickets reselling for $4800, Super Bowl 50 stands in contrast to the record numbers of homeless people in the San Francisco Bay Area, unprecedented student debt, continuing cutbacks in public education, and rising socio-economic inequality.

“Super inequality” was the target of protests near Levi’s Stadium and in downtown San José, where demonstrators chanted that “the Super Bowl’s pockets are lined with gold.” Marching around Super Bowl festivities in Plaza de César Chávez, they called for some of the money to be used to solve the homeless crisis and to address poverty and urgent social issues.

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