US Air Force Supports Super Bowl XLIV

As the excitement builds in the minutes before the Super Bowl kickoff, four Air National Guard F-15 Eagle fighter jets will scream over Miami’s Sun Life Stadium in a dramatic show of military support for the big game.

The US Air Force supported Super Bowl XLIV in several ways:  Not only the flyby by ANG F-15s as the National Anthem completed, but also airborne fighters in protective patrols in the skies overhead.  Other military support included the Armed Forces Color Guard that presented the Colors prior to the game.

Besides the obvious need for security, the military support–particularly the flyby–is both an inspirational patriotic event and a recruiting tool.  The military participation certainly isn’t an endorsement of either the Super Bowl, its sponsors, or either of the teams. Similar flybys are done at hundreds of events around the country, from Independence Day celebrations to parades and military funerals.

There are a variety of criteria for authorizing a flyby for a particular event, and those criteria were highlighted last year when the Air Force declined to do a flyby of an Independence Day celebration due to religious tones of the event.  A military official said the flyby would have provided a “selective benefit.”  As previously discussed, while the Air Force was by no means obligated to do the flyby, the logic it used to support the denial was in error.

During the discussion, flybys over sporting events like the Super Bowl–which are routinely done–were brought up as a point of comparison.  While the criteria for sporting events are slightly different, it did support the point that merely conducting a flyby of a public event was not a “selective benefit” or endorsement of any kind.  As noted at the time, there is a hypersensitivity in the military to issues of religion, which sometimes results in an overly conservative (and incorrect) response to such requests.