Will Republicans fumble the 2023 Super Bowl like they did in 2022?

Here’s one thing to watch for during the Super Bowl on Sunday (if you watch at all): Will Republicans double down on their hypocrisy about wanting to keep sports and politics separate?

In recent years, conservatives raised the volume of their whining over professional athletes and sports leagues that acknowledge social inequality. This, conservatives claimed, broke an unwritten rule that sports and politics cannot intermingle.

Never mind the fact that their gripes largely stem from actions taken by teams and players in the National Football League, an organization known for invoking ostensibly pro-American symbols that toe — if not outright cross — the line between patriotism and propaganda.

Last year, a few Republicans leaned in to the right’s hypocrisy about wanting to keep politics out of sports by purchasing campaign ads for the Super Bowl, ahead of the 2022 midterm elections.

Looking at the candidates’ results, the ads don’t appear to have helped much. As Politico noted last year, three political aspirants took to the airwaves — at the time, during their primary campaigns — including a couple ads geared toward a fanatical, right-wing base. 

Jim Lamon appears in a campaign ad in 2022.
Jim Lamon appears in a campaign ad in 2022.Jim Lamon U.S. Senate via YouTube

In Arizona, Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Jim Lamon, who ultimately lost his primary to Blake Masters, aired an ad depicting him in a Western shootout with characters meant to depict three top Democrats: President Joe Biden, Arizona Sen. Mark Kelly and then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. 

Republican Senate candidate Dave McCormick, who ultimately lost his primary race in Pennsylvania to Mehmet Oz, purchased an ad invoking the phrase “Let’s Go, Brandon,” which is used by conservatives to slur Biden in public.

And Michigan gubernatorial hopeful Perry Johnson ran an ad centered on his business experience. Despite personally spending millions of dollars on his campaign, Johnson didn’t even appear on the GOP primary ballot after election officials found his campaign submitted too many fake signatures on nominating petitions.

If you missed Johnson’s ad, you’re in luck: He reportedly purchased another one set to air in Iowa during this year’s Super Bowl, in which he is expected to announce his presidential campaign plans for 2024.

Republicans dropped the ball on their Super Bowl ads last year. But keep your eyes open this year to see if they run the same play. We know at least one of them will.

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