More than 70,000 fans packed NRG Stadium for Super Bowl 51 on Sunday, but elsewhere in Houston the atmosphere was much less celebratory.
Hundreds of protesters marched from city hall to the NFL Experience — a fan festival area a few miles from the stadium — before kickoff, carrying signs decrying U.S. President Donald Trump, capping off a week of anti-Trump protests in the host city leading up to the Super Bowl.
— Dylan Baddour (@DylanBaddour) February 4, 2017
"With the world media watching Houston, we wanted to show the world that we do not accept what is coming out of the White House right now," local democratic party chair Lane Lewis said in an interview with the Houston Chronicle.
— Ileana Najarro (@IleanaNajarro) February 5, 2017
"They will be around to protest and exercise their first amendment right as long as it doesn't interfere with any security operations," Victor Senators, spokesman for the Joint Information Center, told Reuters.
Trump predicted the Patriots would beat the Atlanta Falcons by eight points, according to The Washington Post. The Patriots won by six points in overtime.
What an amazing comeback and win by the Patriots. Tom Brady, Bob Kraft and Coach B are total winners. Wow!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) February 6, 2017
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, team owner Robert Kraft and coach Bill Belichick are all reportedly close with Trump, who described Brady as "a really good friend of mine," according to The New York Times.
Brady has avoided openly expressing his support for Trump, but has been known in the past to keep a "Make America Great Again" hat in his locker.
The friendship didn't go unnoticed by protesters. One dissident carried a sign reading "Tom Brady supports fascism," shown in a photo published on Yahoo Sports. Another read: “Lifelong Pats Fan No More, Dump Trump."
It was an opinion echoed by many on social media.
Me: idc abt the superbowl i just hope both teams have fu--
Tom Brady: *Takes photos w/ Trump*
— Sundus (@itsalwayssundus) February 5, 2017
Every time Tom Brady gets knocked on his ass by an Atlanta Falcon, it feels like a glorious form of protest against Donald Trump.
— Jamie Woodham (@jwoodham) February 5, 2017
Again: the question is not what Tom Brady thinks of Trump. It's the way Trump constantly uses Brady as a prop, followed by Brady's silence.
— Dave Zirin (@EdgeofSports) February 5, 2017
Some fans decided to use the occasion to raise money for a good cause, rather than protest the game they love. People on Twitter pledged donations to organizations like Planned Parenthood and the American Civil Liberties Union for every touchdown.
— Josh Gondelman (@joshgondelman) February 3, 2017
— Anna K Veluz-Wilkins (@veluzwilkins) February 6, 2017
— Anna America (@annaamerica) February 5, 2017
Advertisers also brought a political message to the Super Bowl this year. Companies like Audi, AirBnB and Budweiser used their commercial time to champion messages promoting immigration, feminism and diversity.