Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The controversies surrounding the NFL — including Colin Kaepernick's collusion lawsuit against the league as well as the kneeling debate he sparked — have shrouded the Super Bowl in political drama.

Why it matters: The Super Bowl was once a coveted event at which brands competed for commercial space and celebrities were anxious to perform. But as the nation's politics become more polarized and Kaepernick remains jobless, the league's biggest game has become a lightning rod for controversy.

The details: Celebrities are refusing to be affiliated with the game because of their political stances on issues. Advertisers are outright afraid to buy ad space, the Wall Street Journal reports, because of the assumed political affiliation that comes with the league.

Some celebrities are already opting not to participate.

  • Rihanna declined to perform at the Super Bowl in support of Kaepernick, US Weekly reported.
  • Comedian Amy Schumer said she wouldn't participate in any commercials this year in support of Kaepernick.

Flashback: Last year, there were a record number of ads on political topics including a Budweiser ad on immigration and a Toyota ad rebuking Trump's stances.

Network executives have acknowledged the game has become a political magnet in recent years.

  • ESPN President Jimmy Pitaro admitted as much earlier this year when talking about the network's relationship with the league, but said the more the company leans into political commentary "the more we are alienating, not only our core fans, but our casual fans."

Yes, but: The league's viewership has not suffered this season despite increased caution from celebrities and advertisers.

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  2. Health: 13 states set single-day case records last week
  3. Business: Where stimulus is needed most.
  4. Education: The dangerous instability of school re-openings.
  5. States: Nearly two dozen Minnesota COVID cases traced to 3 Trump campaign events
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Republicans and Dems react to Coney Barrett's Supreme Court confirmation

President Trump stands with Judge Amy Coney Barrett after she took the constitutional oath to serve as a Supreme Court justice during a White House ceremony Monday night .Photo: Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

President Trump said Judge Amy Coney Barrett's Senate confirmation to the Supreme Court and her subsequent taking of the constitutional oath Monday was a "momentous day," as she she vowed to serve "without any fear or favour."

  • But as Republicans applauded the third conservative justice in four years, many Democrats including Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) warned of consequences to the rush to replace the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg ahead of the Nov. 3 election, with progressives leading calls to expand the court.
Ina Fried, author of Login
1 hour ago - Science

CRISPR pioneer: "Science is on the ballot" in 2020

Photo: "Axios on HBO"

In her three decades in science, Jennifer Doudna said she has seen a gradual erosion of trust in the profession, but the recent Nobel Prize winner told "Axios on HBO" that the institution itself has been under assault from the current administration.

  • "I think science is on the ballot," Doudna said in the interview.

Why it matters: That has manifested itself in everything from how the federal government approaches climate change to the pandemic.