At first, Sheriff Robert Arnold said he had no explanation for why shots were fired outside his home in Rutherford County, Tenn., on Monday night — except perhaps for an undercurrent of anti-police sentiment in America.
But then another possibility came to mind, and Arnold blamed Beyoncé.
“With everything that happened since the Super Bowl… that’s what I’m thinking: Here’s another target on law enforcement,” he said.
He went on: “You have Beyoncé’s video and that’s kind of bled over into other things, it seems.”
In a subsequent statement, Arnold said that his remarks “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.”
Since the Super Bowl, five U.S. police officers have been fatally shot, according to the non-profit Officer Down Memorial Page.
The hits keep coming for Beyoncé, whose new music video and Super Bowl halftime-show performance continue to attract the ire of law enforcement officers and officials who say she dialed up the hate and put police in danger.
In particular, they say, her Super Bowl show — watched by nearly 120 million Americans — carried a dangerous anti-police message.
A number of police officers and officials and their supporters took to social media the night of the Super Bowl to voice their displeasure with Beyoncé — emotions channeled by public officials and police groups in the days since.
“It’s inciting bad behavior,” National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director Jonathan Thompson told The Washington Post this week. “Art is one thing, but yelling fire in a crowded theater is an entirely different one.”
On the night of the Super Bowl, Thompson said, the group was hosting a watch party at the J.W. Marriott in downtown Washington for members in town for an annual meeting. Reminded by one member that Beyoncé was about to perform her controversial new song, “Formation,” Thompson said he asked the party attendees if they wanted to turn off the volume.
“I got an overwhelming response from the audience: ‘We don’t want to hear it,'” he recalled. “And some of the language was a bit salty.”
And so, he said, the audio was muted and members of the association turned their backs on Beyoncé’s performance.
Since then, the sheriff’s group has described the show as “anti-police” in public statements and even sent a letter to the NFL complaining of its decision to air it. Thompson declined to share details of the letter’s contents but said he is convinced that the NFL knew about the performance and its message and allowed it to proceed regardless.
“At this point, I think the NFL had a serious error in judgment,” he said.
Police who “make errors of judgment” should be held accountable, Thompson said, but Beyoncé’s went too far.
He and others take issue with the imagery in the “Formation” video and Beyoncé’s Super Bowl performance of the song.
The video opens with the singer standing atop a half-submerged New Orleans police cruiser, a recurring image throughout. Other related symbols periodically flash on screen: Sirens; a jacket that says “POLICE” on it; graffiti that reads “stop shooting us.”
At one point, a hooded boy dances in front of a line of riot gear-clad officers who later join him in raising their hands — an apparent allusion to Michael Brown, who some initially believed had his hands up to surrender when he was shot dead by a police officer. (That version of events was later challenged by federal authorities.)
At the end of the video, the police cruiser fully submerges in the water, taking Beyoncé with it.
In her Super Bowl show, Beyoncé and her back-up dancers wore costumes reminiscent of the Black Panther Party, whose members projected black empowerment and sometimes committed violent acts during the Civil Rights era. The dancers at one point formed an “X” with their bodies, a possible allusion to Malcolm X.
Thompson and others have also criticized the the lyrics of “Formation,” though they make no mention of the police or the law and he could not cite specific offensive passages. Instead, the song is largely an exaltation of traits and characteristics typically associated with being black.
New Jersey’s largest state troopers union voiced its “shock and disgust” at the performance in a letter sent to NFL officials and published online by the the New Jersey Star Ledger last week.
“We call on the NFL to separate itself from that message,” State Troopers Fraternal Association of N.J. President Christopher Burgos wrote in the letter addressed to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
Burgos noted the the 1973 murder of state trooper Werner Foerster at the hands of former the woman law enforcement refers to as Black Panther Party member Joanne Chesimard, also known as Assata Shakur. In 2013, Chesimard became the first woman named to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Most Wanted Terrorist list.
“It cannot be denied that the black panthers have assassinated officers and troopers who were upholding the constitution and rule of law, keeping everyone in our society, regardless of color or creed safe,” he wrote.
Separately, Milwaukee County Sheriff David A. Clark Jr. compared Beyoncé’s attire to the white robes of the Ku Klux Klan on the Fox Business Channel last week.
And it wasn’t just law enforcement officers who were offended.
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the Super Bowl performance “outrageous” and Rep. Peter King (R-N.Y.) said in a Facebook post that it was “just one more example of how acceptable it has become to be anti-police.”