The Super Bowl and the government shutdown

Published 5:51 pm Thursday, January 17, 2019

There are few events in the world that captivate an audience like the Super Bowl. Football fans love it for the game, regardless of who’s playing. Non-football fans enjoy the commercials, the halftime show and want to watch to stay up to date with pop culture.  

The TV numbers prove it. An estimated 103 million Americans watched the Super Bowl last year, and the event seemingly grows every year.

As you know, this year’s Super Bowl is about an hour down the road from LaGrange in downtown Atlanta. The city has spent years preparing for Feb. 3, when hundreds of thousands of visitors will descend upon Georgia for a wild weekend of football and fun. The Metro Atlanta Chamber estimated the economic impact on the city will be $400 million dollars, and that was an early, conservative estimate.

Students from LaGrange College’s sports management department are volunteering to help with the game in Atlanta. They were in Minnesota last year for Super Bowl LII and also helped with last year’s College Football Playoff Championship game in Atlanta. 

LaGrange could even have a local connection on the sidelines, as LaGrange football coach Chuck Gibbs is the son of New Orleans Saints offensive line guru Alex Gibbs. The Saints are one of four teams still vying for the Lombardi Trophy.

There might even be some people that decide to stay in LaGrange hotels, rather than driving all the way to downtown Atlanta. After all, the quickest drive from New Orleans to Atlanta involves driving right through LaGrange on Interstate 85. 

There will be plenty of focus on the field in the weeks ahead, but state leaders will be worried about others factors, such as how an Atlanta-hosted Super Bowl may be impacted by the current government shutdown. 

Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms said Tuesday that the city is in “unprecedented territory” right now. Most of the concern surrounds the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, which already sees around 70,000 to 80,000 visitors per day. The day before and after the Super Bowl figures to be even busier. Bottoms estimated 110,000 people will fly out of the airport the day following the Super Bowl, a day that is being labeled “Mass Exodus Monday.”

TSA agents are currently working without pay as a result of the government shutdown and many have been calling in sick as a result. Standard wait times at the Hartsfield-Jackson were nearly an hour and a half on Monday, and those times figure to be much higher if the shutdown continues into Super Bowl weekend.

Sen. Johnny Isakson is worried what a prolonged shutdown — one that would be near 50 days by Super Bowl Sunday — could mean for Georgia. 

“What if the largest airport in the world, that’s going to bring people to the largest football game in the world, goes out of business because the TSA strikes?” Isakson said on the Senate floor Tuesday. “Then you’ve just cost millions of dollars to the United States of America, my home city of Atlanta and others.”

There could be other impacts too.

The Federal Communications Commission has suspended the majority of its operations, which may have a major impact on advertising during the game. The FCC approves electronic products before they hit the market. During the shutdown, no products are being approved, meaning those items won’t be advertised.

According to, advertisers paid more than $5 million for a 30 second advertisement for last year’s Super Bowl.

There are 800,000 federal workers who aren’t getting paid right now, but for unaffected Americans that impact is currently not very noticeable and can seem like a far-off problem.

 We all have jobs and families; the power is still on at home and the mail is still running every day.

But it’s worth wondering what impacts on the Super Bowl might mean for the continuation of the shutdown.

Some of us are Republicans and some of us are Democrats. Some of us are neither. But most of us — especially most of us in the South — are football fans. Even more of us are Super Bowl fans, even if it’s simply because of the entertaining halftime shows and compelling Budweiser ads.

Like it or not, the shutdown is expected to cause headaches for Atlanta and companies around the world. 

The four teams still vying for a spot in the big game will have plenty of pressure and eyes on them in the days ahead, but state and federal politicians will be feeling just as much pressure, if not more.