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Online Posts Suggest the 2024 Super Bowl Matchup Was 'Scripted' in Advance. Here's What We Know

X user @_MLFootball
X user @_MLFootball

Some sports stories simply seem too good to be true. Why have the New England Patriots been so successful in Super Bowls while the New York Jets (to borrow a phrase from sportswriter Jon Bois) just let football happen to them? According to some, it's because the games of the NFL were never real to begin with: Every season, start to finish, is supposedly "scripted" with a predetermined outcome.

The theory that professional sports are scripted is not new. Wrestling even has its own term, kayfabe, for the blend of athleticism and performance. But a purported TV news report from Jan. 18, 2024, according to a photo widely shared on social media, garnered widespread attention for potentially spoiling the matchup of the upcoming 2024 Super Bowl.

According to the photo post, Super Bowl 58 will pit the Baltimore Ravens against the San Francisco 49ers, with performances from Reba McEntire, Post Malone and Usher.

Proponents of this claim cited the fact that the report listed the correct date for the game (Feb. 11, 2024) and the fact that all three artists were indeed scheduled to perform at the game, with McEntire and Post Malone singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" and "America the Beautiful," respectively, while Usher will perform the halftime show.

Some posts tried to back up the alleged news report by citing an interesting pattern in the Super Bowl logos themselves. Beginning with the 2022 Super Bowl, the NFL has used a colored logo for the game. In the two games played so far using that style of logo, the colors of the logo happened to match those of the teams playing, despite the fact that in every case the logo is unveiled long before the Super Bowl matchup is set. The Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams matched the 2022 Super Bowl logo's orange and yellow, while the red and green of the 2023 Super Bowl logo matched the colors of the Kansas City Chiefs and Philadelphia Eagles. For the 2024 Super Bowl, the logo supposedly featured purple (the main color of the Ravens) and red (the main color of the 49ers):

We had limited success using reverse-image Google searches to attempt to identify the original source of the image. There were posts from Jan. 19, but none from Jan. 18, or earlier. Other outlets exploring the claim, like SFGate, had trouble identifying the origin of the image, too. That article listed a post on the Philadelphia Eagles subreddit as the earliest public example, and Snopes could not find anything earlier than that post, either.

We were also unable to confirm whether the photo was in its original state or manipulated. There was one possible sign of editing, a slight change in hue visible on the right side of the words "Malone" and "Francisco," but it was not substantial enough to made a clear judgment. The logo of the station in the photographs is from a Canadian TV station, CTV Vancouver Island, so we reached out to representatives from CTV for comment and will update the story if we hear back. We also reached out to the NFL.

If the photo was real, it's more likely the result of a broadcast error than the unintentional script reveal some were claiming. In addition, we found no verifiable evidence that any NFL game had ever been scripted.

It bears pointing out that the two teams featured in the above post both hold the No. 1 seed in their respective divisions, with the Ravens finishing the regular season at 13-4 and the Niners at 12-5. Holding the No. 1 seed in the conference gives those teams a first-round bye in the playoffs, an advantage that could be interpreted as giving those teams the best chance to advance to the Super Bowl. Further, most football fans would likely be willing to admit that the Ravens and the 49ers just look like the best teams in their respective conferences.

We speculate, but are unable to confirm, that this was a simple editing mistake because of those two reasons: Someone working on the broadcast may have simply chosen the two No. 1 seeds as placeholders and had forgotten to edit the title before it was aired.

Sources:

Bois, Jon. “Chart Party: The History of the NFL, 1987-2016.” SBNation.Com, 22 Aug. 2017, https://www.sbnation.com/2017/8/22/16181334/chart-party-history-of-nfl.

Definition of KAYFABE. 5 Dec. 2023, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/kayfabe.

Fernandez, Gabe. “Canadian TV Station Stirs up ‘49ers-Ravens Super Bowl Script’ Conspiracy.” SFGATE, 21 Jan. 2024, https://www.sfgate.com/49ers/article/nfl-conspiracy-theory-ravens-super-bowl-script-18619255.php.

“Https://Twitter.Com/Johnpaulp/Status/1748791852981961214.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/johnpaulp/status/1748791852981961214. Accessed 22 Jan. 2024.

“Https://Twitter.Com/_MLFootball/Status/1748879501268845004.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/_MLFootball/status/1748879501268845004. Accessed 22 Jan. 2024.

“Https://Twitter.Com/_MLFootball/Status/1748927792140468263.” X (Formerly Twitter), https://twitter.com/_MLFootball/status/1748927792140468263. Accessed 22 Jan. 2024.

“NFL Fans Convinced TV Station ‘leaked’ Super Bowl Teams after Spotting ‘Script.’” The US Sun, 22 Jan. 2024, https://www.the-sun.com/sport/10155397/super-bowl-script-nfl-leaked-49ers-ravens/.

“Super Bowl 2024: Get to Know Post Malone, Who Will Perform ‘America the Beautiful’ Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII.” CBSSports.Com, 20 Jan. 2024, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/super-bowl-2024-get-to-know-post-malone-who-will-perform-america-the-beautiful-ahead-of-super-bowl-lviii/.

“Super Bowl 2024 Halftime Show: Get to Know Usher, Who Will Be Performing at Super Bowl LVIII in Las Vegas.” CBSSports.Com, 20 Jan. 2024, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/super-bowl-2024-halftime-show-get-to-know-usher-who-will-be-performing-at-super-bowl-lviii-in-las-vegas/.

“Super Bowl 2024 National Anthem: Get to Know Reba McEntire, Who Will Be Performing Ahead of Super Bowl LVIII.” CBSSports.Com, 20 Jan. 2024, https://www.cbssports.com/nfl/news/super-bowl-2024-national-anthem-get-to-know-reba-mcentire-who-will-be-performing-ahead-of-super-bowl-lviii/.

/u/MoroDaEater. “Just Saw This on Facebook. League Is Cooked Lol /s .” Reddit.Com/r/Eagles, https://www.reddit.com/r/eagles/comments/19atetg/just_saw_this_on_facebook_league_is_cooked_lol_s/.