by Kathryn Thomson
A rally scheduled in front of the NFL’s New York City headquarters in protest over Beyoncé’s Super Bowl halftime performance fell flat on its face Tuesday morning. In fact, the event looked more like a love fest among Beyoncé fans who showed up to confront the singer’s critics – all three of them.
When the protest began around 8 a.m., print and radio reporters, television news trucks and herds of New York Police Department officers were all waiting for the impending showdown between those offended by Beyoncé’s performance of her controversial song “Formation” and those who supported it.
Despite an overwhelming amount of RSVPs for the rally, which described itself as a “Blue Lives Matter” pro-police demonstration, hardly any “anti-Beyoncé” protesters attended. Meanwhile, around 30 “anti-anti-Beyoncé” protestors stood in front of the Park Avenue NFL offices holding signs in support of the most Grammy-nominated female artist of all time.
Critics of “Formation” – the newly released, pro-black song that references the Black Lives Matter movement and police brutality, found the performance to be a distasteful politicization of America’s beloved pastime.
Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani was outspoken on Fox and Friends the morning after the big game, arguing that, “it was really outrageous that she used it as a platform to attack police officers, who are the people who protect her and protect us and keep us alive.”
East Harlem teacher Tajh Sutton, a Beyoncé supporter, said she wanted to come out so the anti-Beyoncé protesters would know there was opposition to their view. “If Beyoncé had performed ‘Crazy In Love,’ there would be no issue, and she’d still be their girl,” said Sutton. “But because she took a stand on her unapologetic blackness and was very much proclaiming her pride for her heritage, then she became problematic. Until then everyone loved her.”
Two of the three anti-Beyoncé protesters who did show up left after an hour, even though the Eventbrite page billed the protest as running from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. The lone protester who stuck around was Ariel Kahone, a middle-aged, full-time Ted Cruz volunteer based out of New York City, who first heard about the Beyoncé backlash after watching Fox News Channel. Kahone received the Eventbrite anti-Beyoncé protest invitation from a police officer friend who was also offended by the singer’s halftime production.
“I am outraged that Roger Goodell allowed this to happen,” Kahone said, adding that he would have instead appreciated a halftime performance from either Oprah Winfrey or Whoopi Goldberg, who he believes do not create racial divisiveness like Beyoncé.
Peter King, a U.S. Congressman representing Long Island, also objected to Beyoncé’s performance, specifically the references to the Black Panthers organization, a group King referred to as a “terrorist organization, killing police officers in the 60s and 70s” in an interview with the local CBS station in New York.
The New York Times op-ed Columnist Charles Blow posted a video response to Beyoncé’s “Formation” performance and lyrics to YouTube on Monday, praising the artist for risking her popularity to promote a cause she is passionate about. Blow noted in his video monologue that the song uniquely “deals with many intra and external issues of blackness,” which harkens to a period when artists, even at the height of their careers, routinely risked everything in order to be politically active. “We need to applaud people when they make the right choice to use fame and popularity for a good cause,” Blow said in the video.
Kalief Metellus, a 20-year-old student at the Borough of Manhattan Community College, thinks Beyoncé’s halftime number has inspired other black artists like Kendrick Lamar, who gave a provocative performance at the Grammy Awards on Monday night. “He spoke to cops arresting us and jail being the new slavery,” said Metellus. “Beyoncé helped open that dialogue.”