By Meg Reid
In a groundbreaking step towards racial equality in America, the NFL has formally asked Marshall Mathers, better known as Eminem, to wear blackface when he performs at the Superbowl LVI Halftime Show in Los Angeles. Mathers is expected to perform alongside Dr. Dre, Mary J. Blige, Snoop Dogg, and Kendrick Lamar at the event this Sunday.
”Given our current little kerfuffle with Brian Flores and the unfortunate misunderstanding on Colin Kaepernick’s part about every single thing we clearly said and did, the NFL thought that it would be awkward to have an obviously white guy out there performing with Black artists,” an NFL spokesperson explained. “So in an effort to ease racial tensions and improve our image around the country, we thought asking a white person to wear blackface would be the most respectful thing to do.”
As arguably the most impactful sports league in the world, the NFL has long made efforts to be a vehicle for equality in society, especially within the last few years, dating back to the creation of the Rooney Rule.
The rule, created in 2003 and named after the then-chairman of the NFL's diversity committee, Dan Rooney, originally required teams to interview at least one minority candidate, but now requires them to interview at least two before hiring a head coach.
According to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, the rule has been extremely effective in promoting diversity in a league in which nearly 60% of its players are Black.
"When the Rooney Rule was initially implemented, only two of 32 NFL head coaches were Black," Goodell said. "Today, almost twenty years later, I'm happy to announce that a whopping three head coaches are Black. Our staffs across the league have never been more diverse."
Goodell added that the NFL's understanding of race issues in the country "has never been better."
“I think we at the NFL have a pretty good understanding of racism and racial inequality. We know there's no better way to show support for people of color than through gestures such as painting slogans on fields, printing slogans on helmet stickers, and putting slogans on endzone banners.”
Viewers will be tuning in Sunday in record numbers to see those slogans one last time this season, as the Cincinnati Bengals take on the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LVI, or what Goodell promises to be "yet another display of transparency, accountability, and commitment to equity by the NFL."
That promise includes the aforementioned Eminem blackface performance, which has been celebrated by the NFL's most notable champion of equality, Jon Gruden.
“It's really the only logical thing to do,” said the former NFL coach. “Though if you ask me, I wouldn't have even known Eminem is white because I don't see color.”