Prince, Dodge Ram, Protests: Race-related Issues in Spotlight of Super Bowl LII

Prince, Dodge Ram, Protests: Race-related Issues in Spotlight of Super Bowl LII

The use of one of Dr. Martin Luther King’s speeches as a voice-over in the automotive manufacturer’s commercial during Sunday’s Super Bowl game drew swift rebuke from fans of the late civil rights leader on social media.

“I just heard the voice of the famous anti-capitalist Martin Luther King, Jr, preaching a sermon on service, superimposed over the images of white American military personnel on parade in dress uniforms, in order to sell Ram trucks. I understand sports ball is to blame,” said M. Pezzulo in a comment left on the video on YouTube.


Many comments on various social media channels also echo the same sentiment, saying it was inappropriate for Dodge to use King’s Drum Major Instinct speech—given in 1968, on greatness and service—to sell cars.


“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be free, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. Recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant—that’s a new definition of greatness,” King said as the video depicts fishermen, military, firefighters, football players, and other workers before cutting to shots of Ram’s truck.

The commercial ended with Ram’s tagline, “Built to Serve.”

The King Center said on Twitter that neither the organization nor members of King’s family approved the use of the words or imagery for use in the ad.

Other comments said it was hypocritical of the NFL to allow such an ad while NFL players who kneel during the national anthem all year were heavily criticized as activists staged protests outside the U.S. Bank stadium.

Leaders of the Black Lives Matter movement and a coalition of other groups attempted to shut down several critical transit lines in downtown Minneapolis in order to protest police brutality and racism.

About 100 leaders representing the Movement for Black Lives, Black Lives Matter Network, BYP100, St. Louis Action Council, and the BlackOUT Collective wore t-shirts branded with “You can’t play with Black lives!” locked arms and formed a chain blockade on the tracks of the West Bank station near the U.S. Bank Stadium for about an hour, according to the Star Tribune.

The activists said they are using the moment to call attention to and stand with athletes who have knelt and protested racial injustice and police brutality against African Americans over the past two football seasons.

The City of Minneapolis had banned city residents without Super Bowl tickets from using the public transit—a move activists said primarily affected people of color who rely on it to commute to work.

Seventeen of the protesters who were arrested were later released with a citation according to the Star Tribune.

In a night already filled with controversies, the Pepsi Super Bowl halftime show didn’t disappoint either. While Justine Timberlake’s much-anticipated performance didn’t deliver on the hype according to some comments on Twitter, it was his tribute to Prince that drew ire from the late singer’s fans.

In a 1998 interview with Guitar World Magazine, Prince was asked what he thought about digital editing to “create a situation where you could jam with any artist from the past.”

“That’s the most demonic thing imaginable,” he said. “Everything is as it is, and it should be. If I was meant to jam with Duke Ellington, we would have lived in the same age. That whole virtual reality thing … it really is demonic. And I am not a demon. Also, what they did with that Beatles song (Free as a Bird), manipulating John Lennon’s voice to have him singing from across the grave … that’ll never happen to me. To prevent that kind of thing from happening is another reason why I want artistic control.”