The Navy’s Blue Angels soar in formation over Levi's Stadium during Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016.

The Navy’s Blue Angels soar in formation over Levi's Stadium during Super Bowl 50 in Santa Clara, Calif., Feb. 7, 2016. (Brandon Dyer/U.S. Army)

In Super Bowl LVII, most viewers saw what they wanted — a competitive football game between two explosive NFL teams decided in the last minute with a Kansas City Chiefs field goal defeating the Philadelphia Eagles 38-35.

Other viewers, those more attuned to social activism, noticed something else. At least four separate events surrounding the game and its festivities — three of which were most obvious — undoubtedly left activists cheering. Interestingly, the fourth should have troubled them for lacking diversity team representation but did not.

The first three included the following:

1. Our national anthem was immediately followed by a 19th-century hymn titled ”Lift Every Voice and Sing” — considered to be the Black national anthem. While activists embraced it as demonstrating equity for Blacks, critics opposed it for racial divisiveness. Having two national anthems is like serving two masters; it does little to bond us all together under one flag.

2. Also, as part of the NFL opening ceremonies, there was a flyover of four military combat aircraft — piloted by women — obviously another feather in the activists’ equity cap. While there is no doubt women are just as qualified to fly combat planes as their male counterparts, the all-female flyover distracted from the important gender bond shared on 21st century battlefields. As both genders operate together for one mission — to defeat our enemies — the NFL flyover should have involved pilots of both genders to underscore this unity of purpose.

3. Activists undoubtedly were also enthusiastic over the left-leaning celebrities featured in many of the television ads. Apparently the NFL sought to keep its leftist image intact by avoiding conservative voices lest it incur the wrath of the woke. Nonetheless, a Christian ad conveying a $20 million message of empathy by Jesus for all earned criticism from Rep. Alexandra Ocasio Cortez, D-N.Y., who claimed Jesus would not fund commercials to “make fascism look benign.”

But a fourth event went unnoticed by Super Bowl viewers. The majority of players on both teams were Black. In fact, 70% of NFL players are Black. With Black males representing about 6.5% of the U.S. population, this means their representation on the gridiron is substantially greater than their representative portion of the general population. Yet, in a so-called “woke” world, there is no concern that teams should reflect a more balanced representation of white players.

There is good reason for this. Coaches care nothing about a player’s race, as their focus is strictly upon individual player performance contributing to a winning team effort. And a reality of professional football is that many of the best performers are Black. The same is true in the NBA, where Blacks account for 71.8% of the players.

The ultimate goal in professional sports is winning, leaving coaches unconcerned about “diversity, equity and inclusion” (DEI) — restrictions imposed by the Biden administration upon our Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) and down through the ranks. The military — like NFL coaches — should be allowed to field only the best performers on 21st-century battlefields, regardless of race — an outcome made much less likely where DEI restrictions govern.

Interestingly, Bill Jacobson, founder of the Equal Protection Project, a group devoted to the fair treatment of all people without regard to race or ethnicity, nailed DEI for what it really is, saying it is just racism in another form. Yet this is what our military is embracing.

As long as there is an NFL, individual performance will dictate who plays on a team and who does not. Our military should field its warriors on the same basis.

James G. Zumwalt is a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel. He is the author of “Bare Feet, Iron Will: Stories from the Other Side of Vietnam's Battlefields.”

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