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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.

Go deeper

Tech scrambles to derail inauguration threats

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Tech companies are sharing more information with law enforcement in a frantic effort to prevent violence around the inauguration, after the government was caught flat-footed by the Capitol siege.

Between the lines: Tech knows it will be held accountable for any further violence that turns out to have been planned online if it doesn't act to stop it.

Dave Lawler, author of World
5 hours ago - World

Uganda's election: Museveni declared winner, Wine claims fraud

Wine rejected the official results of the election. Photo: Sumy Sadruni/AFP via Getty

Yoweri Museveni was declared the winner of a sixth presidential term on Saturday, with official results giving him 59% to 35% for Bobi Wine, the singer-turned-opposition leader.

Why it matters: This announcement was predictable, as the election was neither free nor fair and Museveni had no intention of surrendering power after 35 years. But Wine — who posed a strong challenged to Museveni, particularly in urban areas, and was beaten and arrested during the campaign — has said he will present evidence of fraud. The big question is whether he will mobilize mass resistance in the streets.

Off the Rails

Episode 1: A premeditated lie lit the fire

Photo illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Beginning on election night 2020 and continuing through his final days in office, Donald Trump unraveled and dragged America with him, to the point that his followers sacked the U.S. Capitol with two weeks left in his term. Axios takes you inside the collapse of a president with a special series.

Episode 1: Trump’s refusal to believe the election results was premeditated. He had heard about the “red mirage” — the likelihood that early vote counts would tip more Republican than the final tallies — and he decided to exploit it.

"Jared, you call the Murdochs! Jason, you call Sammon and Hemmer!”