After a week’s worth of unforgettable non-interviews and hilarious memes, the Seattle Seahawks lost last night’s Super Bowl to the New England Patriots in epic fashion. New England’s late-game comeback is being overshadowed by Seattle’s final possession of the game, one yard away from the end zone, when coaches opted for a pass attempt from Russell Wilson instead of a run by Lynch. The pass was picked off, sealing the Patriots’ victory.
But was Seattle trying hard not to make Lynch the hero because of the rebelliousness he’d showed on the run-up to the big game? According to rumors that The Nation’s Dave Zirin is hearing from inside the Seahawks’ locker room, the answer is "yes."
The theory goes something like this. Russell Wilson is your young clean-cut God-fearing media-perfect quarterback. If one was creating a superstar face to market for the twenty-first century, chances are they would look, sound and basically be Russell Wilson. He’s Derek Jeter with a Bible, your "biracial angel" of our times. Marshawn Lynch is… Marshawn Lynch, and if you haven’t figured out what that means after the past two weeks, then you haven’t been paying attention.
The theory goes that there were major financial, public relations and football reasons for Russell Wilson and not Lynch to be the one who ends the game in glory. If he throws that touchdown for the victory, Wilson is almost certainly the Super Bowl MVP. He gets the commercial. He gets to stand with the commissioner. And oh, by the way, he also gets his new contract, one that will fasten his prime, at only 26 years old, to the Seattle franchise. Marshawn Lynch is also due a new contract. Marshawn Lynch, had he punched that ball over the goal line, would get to be the one handed the MVP trophy. Marshawn Lynch maybe gets on the mic to say Lord knows what.
None of this takes away from the fact that the game was one of the best Super Bowls in recent memory. But it does play into the underlying narrative centered on race and class that made Lynch’s pre-Super Bowl antics so fascinating to watch. As Jenée Desmond-Harris wrote for Vox last week, Lynch’s "selective silence is a power move for black athletes." Here’s more:
Lynch is not simply trolling the media or his employer, the NFL (which has said it will fine him if he doesn’t speak to the press). He’s arguably redefining the traditional confines of a black player’s role. As Peter Odell Campbell, an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh and an expert on public arguments about race and sexuality in the media, put it, this athlete’s selective silence has put him in control of his labor and freed him from the "racist double bind" that is black NFL players’ relationship with the press.