The National Football League kicked off Super Bowl LIV on Sunday by airing an unabashedly patriotic video tribute to the United States and its flag.
The montage is set to “Ragged Old Flag,” Johnny Cash’s 1974 spoken-word salute to the nation. Cash wrote the song following the Watergate scandal with the stated intention to “reaffirm faith in the country and the goodness of the American people.”
On top of Cash’s words, the video features heavy American flag imagery interspersed with news clips and reenactments of momentous moments in U.S. history, from the 1815 Battle of New Orleans to the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Retired Marine Lance Cpl. Kyle Carpenter, America’s youngest living Medal of Honor recipient, appears throughout the video. He is seen walking through Arlington National Cemetery and reciting the Declaration of Independence.
The women owners of a number of NFL teams also pay homage to America’s founding ideals and symbols, with Kansas City Chief owner Norma Hunt calling the flag “our most precious symbol of freedom.”
No mention is made of former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protests, but the video includes clips of protesters burning the flag.
At the end, Carpenter delivers the last word, saying: “God Bless America.”
After the Super Bowl American flag video
In a behind-the-scenes segment about the making of the tribute, Carpenter elaborates on his views.
“I think the ‘Ragged Old Flag’ is a perfect representation of maybe where we’re at right now, where I feel like we’re at right now,” he says. “Our country, now more than any time I’ve been alive, feels more divided. It’s frustrating as a war fighter to come home to the country that you’re essentially fighting for to find our people so separated and segregated. It’s supposed to be the United States, and sometimes it doesn’t feel that way.”
“There’s also a lot of people in our country that want to see this thing come back together,” Carpenter continues. “This project more than anything sort of signifies that for me, and that’s why I was proud to be a part of it, just because of what it’s representing and how it’s kind of accurately representing where we’re at and also maybe addresses where we should be heading.”
In the same segment, producer Pepper Carlson credits Fox Sports president Mark Silverman with pushing the tribute video. She says he is “completely patriotic and wants to give back in his own way, which then gets us all passionate about it because this is somebody who could be getting millions of dollars in advertising and instead would rather spend the money to pull of a shoot of this size and give such a positive, uplifting message to Americans.”
However, not everyone at the Super Bowl appeared to be in a patriotic mood.
Footage published by TMZ Sunday showed Beyoncé and Jay-Z staying seated in the crowd at Hard Rock Cafe Stadium during Demi Lovato’s performance of the national anthem.
During the halftime show, Jennifer Lopez and Shakira seemed to slip a number of liberal political messages into their performance, including by putting kids in cages.
The Kansas City Chiefs overcame a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the San Francisco 49ers 31-20.