Matt Birk, a Harvard-educated former Super Bowl-winning NFL center and currently Republican candidate for Minnesota lieutenant governor, made headlines last week for saying our country encourages abortion in “ telling women they should have a career. Speaking at a national right to life event last month, Birk said “our culture loudly and surreptitiously promotes abortion, telling women they should look a certain way, that they should have a career – all those things”. He too compared abortion to slavery and said pro-abortion activists “always want to go for the rape card”. Then he made a joke about winning a Super Bowl.
Because Birk, who went to Harvard, is running for office as a pro-business Republican, it would be weird if he doesn’t pop off with some reactionary bullshit about how women should come home to their offspring, because that idea is at the heart of both the conservative and neoliberal programs. But although these ideas are very old, there is nothing new in hearing them from Birk. For more than a decade, Birk, who holds a degree in economics from Harvard, has spent years releasing increasingly powerful clouds of ideas, not just about abortion and women, but also on gay marriage and science. Also for more than a decade, Birk has enjoyed the reputation as a smart man that comes with being a Harvard graduate. He has long enjoyed media coverage, including mentions of the 34 he scored on the ACT in high school, and has regularly landed on “smartest athlete” lists. This part of its identity is crucial for its brand. Birk makes sure to point out that he went to Harvard in campaign material and its 2022 National Right to Life Convention Speaker organic said:
Super Bowl champion Matt Birk is a 15-year veteran of the National Football League and is currently an NFL Special Assistant. A six-time NFL Pro Bowl selection and two-time All Pro, Matt has proven to be an undisputed leader on the court and was named the sixth-smartest athlete by Sports News. A graduate of Harvard University, Matt received the 2011 Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year Award for his excellence on and off the field, including his commitment to highlighting the importance of education through his HIKE Foundation. .
Sixth smartest! Why such a ranking was even devised in the first place is perhaps a question for another day; Birk’s test scores and credentials tell us as much about his ability to play football as his high school haul times would tell us about his ability to play football. Sports News journalists to write about professional football. And that certainly says nothing about Matt Birk’s moral acuity – a matter of at least some relevance in a league that has spent the last decade pretending to care about racial justice, sexual violence and welfare of its own players. Dinner on a Sports News ranking of the “smartest athletes” of 2010 who is not even more on the internet is quite pathetic in every way. It helps it fit in with most everything Birk (Harvard ’98) has ever said.
In 2012, our Harvard Man wrote a editorial in the Tribune of the Stars support a law that would ban same-sex marriage in Minnesota. Birk was then playing his last season in the NFL, and very upset:
Same-sex unions may not specifically affect my marriage, but they will affect my children, the next generation. Ideas have consequences and laws shape culture. Redefining marriage will affect the overall well-being of children and the well-being of society. As a Christian and a citizen, I am obligated to care about both.
I am speaking out on this issue because it is far too important to remain silent. People who simply recognize the fundamental reality of marriage between a man and a woman are labeled as “bigots” and “homophobes.” Haven’t we passed that as a society?
In 2013, the year of his Harvard class’s 15th anniversary celebration, Birk explained that he wouldn’t be going to the White House with the rest of the Ravens’ Super Bowl-winning team, because the president Obama once had thanked Planned Parenthood in a speech.
“Planned Parenthood performs about 330,000 abortions a year,” Birk said. “I’m Catholic, I’m active in the Pro-Life movement and I felt like I couldn’t handle it. I could in no way approve of that.
After retiring after the 2012 Super Bowl, a flattering profile in the Tribune of the Stars sold Birk as the potential next big thing is Republican politics in Minnesota, noting a little-noticed part of his biography:
“He graduated from Harvard University with a degree in economics and has a Crimson football tattoo on his left leg. He plans to donate his brain to science because of his concerns about concussions in football, and he doesn’t wear his Super Bowl ring regularly, recently telling someone he was fat and ‘obnoxious’ .
Respectability political bullshit coded about flashy jewelry aside, the former Harvard football player’s worries about football-induced brain trauma subsided after he started working for the NFL in 2014. In 2013, Birk from Harvard said he would donate his brain and spinal cord to “help better understand the effects of football” and urged other players to do the same. Four years later, and then on the NFL payroll as an adviser, Harvard’s Birk changed his tune. After a study published in The Journal of the American Medical Association found that the brains of 110 of 111 deceased former NFL players showed evidence of CTE, the Harvard econom major expressed skepticism that questions his status of someone who understands how numbers work.
Is Matt Birk smart? Because he went to Harvard, he is certainly considered intelligent, although there is plenty of evidence to the contrary. Does it even matter that Matt Birk is smart? Probably not. What matters is that he uses the idea that he’s smart – did I mention he went to Harvard? – to provide cover and credibility to a movement that aims to exert dominance over others. In this way in particular, he is like many other Harvard graduates before him.
Pointing to the diploma hanging on your wall is easier than trying to construct a morally coherent argument for your vision of a collective future, but what does it really say? After all, Harvard should be best understood as a $53 billion private enterprise that relies on the exploitation workers and the public preserve the status of its own brand and the broader status quo; his main exports are brothers in finance and management consultants. The fetishization of this “success” has sickening results both figuratively and, civically, literally. That’s how you end up with people thinking that Matt Birk from Harvard might have something worth saying, and maybe even should be in charge.
There really isn’t much to say about candidate Matt Birk. He’s completely off the charts, an absolutely unremarkable GOP creep with boring ideas and a terrible haircut. It’s much more illuminating, I think, to see how he got here. By fusing traditional Republican politics – whatever it was at one point – with his fame as a professional athlete and his reputation as a smart guy at Harvard, Birk manages to have the right meritocratic look while displaying the deepest contempt for the fundamental rights. of his fellow humans.
People have been mistaking Matt Birk for a smart guy for decades, when he’s really just a Harvard guy. And they’ve been confusing the Harvard guys with something more for way longer than that.