Seven law enforcement officers have reportedly been gunned down across the United States since Sunday, February 7, the day of Super Bowl 50 — and Tennessee Sheriff Robert Arnold believes he knows the reason why.
At a press conference on Tuesday, the Rutherford County sheriff said Beyoncé’s politically and racially charged halftime show performance at the Big Game — during which she performed her latest song “Formation,” the video of which sees the pop star standing on an underwater police car in post-Katrina New Orleans and features police officers with their hands up — had sparked anti-law enforcement sentiment across the country.
“With everything that’s happened since the Super Bowl, with law enforcement as a whole, I think we’ve lost five to seven officers, five deputy sheriffs since the Super Bowl, that’s what I’m thinking,” Arnold said, according to the New York Daily News. “You have Beyoncé’s video and that’s kind of bled over into other things about law enforcement.”
Arnold said that sentiment could explain the drive-by shooting that occurred outside his Murfreesboro home on Monday night. According to a police report obtained by the Tennessean, Arnold was at home around 8:18 pm when he heard eight shots fired at house. The sheriff’s wife, 8-year-old daughter, and 3-year-old son were unharmed, but Arnold said at the Tuesday press conference that the shooting bothered him “tremendously.”
In a follow-up email to the local paper, Arnold clarified that his comments about Beyoncé’ “reflect the violence and senseless killing of seven deputies in the U.S. since the show aired. My comments are an observation of the violence that has occurred but in no way is meant to offend anyone.”
The sheriff also pointed to a statement from the National Sheriff’s Association: “The senseless killing of four law enforcement officers just this week — on the heels of the anti-police ‘entertainment’ at the Sunday Super Bowl halftime show — reminds us that the men and women in law enforcement take a solemn oath that includes putting their lives on the line every day to protect our citizens.”
“We all know, as soon as you put your uniform on, you’re a target,” Arnold explained at the Tuesday press conference. “You make people mad when you’re just doing your job.”
Beyoncé released the politically-charged music video for “Formation” one day before performing the song during the Super Bowl halftime show, which was watched by more than 100 million Americans and millions more around the world. The performance featured a tribute to the militant (and notoriously anti-police) Black Panthers Party, with the pop star’s African-American backup dancers outfitted in black leather jumpsuits and black berets. Later, the dancers posed with their fists raised in a black power salute.
The performance — which former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called an “attack” on police officers — led to a campaign to boycott the singer and her music, with the effort gaining steam after it was reported that Beyoncé received a police escort to the game.
A planned anti-Beyoncé rally outside NFL headquarters in Manhattan on Tuesday drew just a few protesters, though a number of the singer’s fans and Black Lives Matter activists showed up to counter the demonstration.
Beyoncé made her first public appearance since her halftime show performance at the Grammy Awards in Los Angeles Monday night, but did not comment on the controversy.
The streaming music service Tidal, founded by Beyoncé’s husband Jay-Z, announced shortly before the Super Bowl that it would donate $1.5 million to Black Lives Matter and other national and local social justice organizations.