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Why the Super Bowl is Donald Trump vs. the city of Atlanta

Trump insulted Atlanta and Rep. John Lewis in one of his Twitter rants. Now, the city’s NFL team has the chance to beat the president’s pals from the Patriots in the Super Bowl.

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New York Jets v New England Patriots Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

ATLANTA — “District 5! District 5!”

The name of a Congressional district as a local rallying cry: not normal. I heard it in chants and saw it on signs at Atlanta’s 60,000-strong Women’s March the day after the inauguration, and then on more signs at Sunday’s airport protest against Donald Trump’s refugee immigrants ban.

Even less normal: a Congressional district’s name popping up at sporting events. References to longtime Representative John Lewis’ 5th Congressional District appeared on a couple signs I saw at Sunday’s send-off of the Atlanta Falcons’ buses on their way to the Super Bowl, and the district’s pride was a topic in the crowd at Friday’s deeply lit pep rally at City Hall.

And even before the Falcons clinched a trip to face the New England Patriots in the Super Bowl, there was little debate among Atlantans which team we wanted to win the AFC Championship. Atlantans wanted the Patriots, whose owner, head coach, and quarterback all have close relationships with Trump.

This is the main reason why:

That was in response to Lewis, a bona fide Civil Rights Movement hero, announcing a plan to skip the inauguration over concerns with Russia’s election involvement. And 11 hours later:

Facts don’t matter, but here are a few:

  • Lewis’ district is the bulk of what people think of when they picture “Atlanta.” This includes the Georgia Dome and Turner Field; the world’s busiest airport; dozens of corporate headquarters like Coca-Cola and CNN; the CDC; Georgia Tech and many other universities; the Georgia Aquarium that’s B-rolled in every national Atlanta sporting event; all sorts of beautiful neighborhoods; and so many places name-checked in rap songs.
  • Oh, and most of the events from the 1996 Olympics, the last Summer Games to be held in the United States. The Olympics were here. We had the Olympics, ICYMI.
  • Yeah, Georgia voted Republican again, but Atlanta’s a blue state within a red state. Even the traditionally conservative suburbs in Cobb County went against Trump in 2016. And the Falcons — like the Hawks and unlike the Braves — are far more of an Atlanta team than a Georgia team.
  • Atlanta didn’t rank among the 10 most violent cities of 100,000 or more people in 2016, according to the FBI’s early numbers. Also didn’t in 2015, 2014, and so on. It does rank in the top 10 in GDP, though.
  • The 5th District has places you can’t afford to live and places you’d prefer not to live, and everything in between. Its unemployment rate, median home value, high school graduation rate, and median household income are comparable to plenty of other big cities.
  • We have the Golden Globe-winning TV series Atlanta and various other shows, dozens of major movies, Tyler Perry’s empire, Adult Swim, and more. You’d think a coastal, reality-TV elite like Trump would appreciate the East Coast’s Hollywood more.
  • A decade ago, Trump wanted to build in Lewis’ district, calling business in Atlanta “no-risk” and saying, “Atlanta is like New York,” the city he still kind of lives in.
  • Trump had a right to respond to Lewis in some way, but saying the man with an Atlanta “Hero” mural is “all talk” and “no action” is simply an Alternative Fact. Lewis was being beaten for voting rights while Trump was avoiding Vietnam.
  • Burning? This town was burned down 153 years ago during the Civil War, and the Atlanta Flames left for Canada in 1980, but other than that ... burning?
  • Congressional representatives are, uh, actually not in charge of local governance anyway. You’d think the president would know that.

There’s no doubt which Super Bowl team Trump will find himself rooting for. Bill Belichick has uncharacteristically opened up about his relationship with Trump, and owner Robert Kraft also chalks his support up to personal friendship. Tom Brady has attempted to sidestep his apparent Trump support, including at Super Bowl media day.

Meanwhile, here’s Falcons owner Arthur Blank, a close friend of Kraft’s, earlier in the week:

I do tend to vote more Democrat than Republican. But I support Republicans. Our governor [Nathan Deal] has done an incredible job, and I’ve been a big supporter of his. And U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, who’s a great friend.

But to answer your question, what’s made our country great is the fact that we’ve always been a country of great diversity. My grandparents, my wife’s family, have come from a variety of countries. Diversity, inclusion, building up opportunities and visions for everybody—that’s what’s made us a great country. And [having] a strong middle class has made us a great country. There’s been an erosion in the middle class in the last 20 years or so, and that worries me, the gap between the haves and have nots. I don’t want to see anything that moves us further in that direction. I worry about that.

And I worry about creating any walls—forget about just physical walls, but any versions of walls where we are not the accepting country that we are and where people can come to live out their dreams. When the president says “Let’s make America great again,” that’s what made America great for many, many years. People have come here and achieved at levels they’ve never dreamt possible.

At media day, Blank added that he’s concerned about Trump’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement, which did not specifically reference the Holocaust’s Jewish victims (Blank is Jewish) and, during a joint interview, kidded Kraft about having Trump’s phone number. Falcons WR Mohamed Sanu, a Muslim, also weighed in (“Obviously, my name’s Mohamed,” he said) on his worries about family members traveling.

The Patriots’ Martellus Bennett said he “most likely wouldn’t” attend a Trump White House visit, but otherwise, the sides couldn’t be clearer.

We’re often urged to Stick To Sports and Leave Politics Out Of This, so here’s a statement about the Super Bowl that doesn’t contain a word of politics: A rich bully told derogatory lies about my hometown, and now this town’s NFL team has a chance to beat his buddies for a championship.

Will champions visit President Trump?