Super Bowl LV on Feb. 7, 2021, saw the clash of Tom Brady versus Patrick Mahomes, but as with most years, a lot of the online conversation centered around the commercials. One of the night’s memorable ads was a Jeep commercial that featured an elegiac voiceover from Bruce Springsteen with a strong message about unity.
The spot, “The Middle,” opened with a shot of snowy fields separated by a road. “All are more than welcome to come meet here in the middle,” the iconic musician said. “It’s no secret: the middle has been a hard place to get to lately. Between red and blue … we need the middle,” The Boss narrated. The message that beckoned people from both sides of political lines to come together proved to be divisive. “One of Bruce Springsteen’s best magic tricks is taking something that could’ve been super corny and making you feel it in your bones,” one fan of the ad tweeted. Not everyone was moved by the TV spot, with some fans annoyed by the political commentary. “As someone who deeply admires Bruce Springsteen, I just have to say that Jeep commercial was sad. A great artist paid to further a deeply misguided idea,” another viewer tweeted.
Days after airing, Jeep found themselves embroiled in controversy after news broke about Springsteen’s recent arrest.
Bruce Springsteen got charged with a DWI
The stirring Bruce Springsteen commercial continued to spark online engagement from both fans and detractors, and, on Feb. 10, 2021, Jeep decided to take the ad down from their YouTube page and their social media accounts, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Jeep’s decision to pull the ad reportedly had nothing to do with viewers’ reactions and instead was influenced by the “Born to Run” singer getting charged a DWI on Nov. 14, 2020. According to THR, “He was charged with driving while intoxicated, reckless driving and consuming alcohol in a closed area” in Gateway National Recreation area of Sandy Hook, N.J.
Although the arrest was from the previous November, it had not come to Jeep’s attention until after the ad aired, with TMZ breaking the news. In a statement to THR, a spokesperson for the company said, “[I]t’s also right that we pause our Big Game commercial until the actual facts can be established,” adding, “Its message of community and unity is as relevant as ever. As is the message that drinking and driving can never be condoned.”
A spokesperson for the National Park Service described Springsteen as “cooperative throughout the process.” Here’s what else we know about the arrest.
Bruce Springsteen reportedly took a shot with fans
According to the New York Post, Bruce Springsteen’s issues at the park arose when he pulled over on his motorcycle to interact with a group of fans. A source claimed that the “Born in the U.S.A.” singer took a shot of tequila with fans after posing for a photo, and a nearby park ranger witnessed the interaction and decided to pull him over.
The ranger alleged that Springsteen refused to take a breathalyzer, according to a copy of the arrest report obtained by Fox News. “[He] smelt strongly of alcohol coming off his person and had glassy eyes,” the ranger claimed. “[He] claimed that he had two shots of tequila in the last 20 minutes.” The ranger asked the singer to perform a field sobriety test, and decided to arrest him after observing him “visibly swaying back and forth.”
Shortly after the news of Springsteen’s arrest broke, a source claimed to Asbury Park Press that the New Jersey native’s blood-alcohol content was below the legal limit. An insider also told CNN, “When this is all resolved, I think, people are gonna have some serious doubts about the seriousness of this, especially when the actual details of this are revealed, including the blood alcohol level.
Now that we’ve caught you up to speed on the arrest, let’s find out why the legendary artist agreed to the controversial Super Bowl commercial in the first place.
Why Bruce Springsteen agreed to the commercial
Bruce Springsteen collaborating on the Jeep commercial was a career first, as the singer is notoriously elusive when it comes to the ad world. Olivier Francois, chief marketing officer at Jeep’s parent company, told Variety how he courted the musician for years.
“Bruce is not for sale. He’s not even for rent,” Francois told the publication, “He certainly doesn’t need anything you think you have.” The marketing executive said that “The Middle” commercial came together in early 2021 after Francois exchanged New Year’s texts with Jon Landau, Springsteen’s long-time manager. Landau had agreed to look at a treatment for the TV spot. “When we saw it, we just felt that Bruce could turn this into something special,” the manager told Billboard. Jeep sent a full script for the poem that Springsteen would narrate, and although the singer was impressed, he still left his own imprint. Landau told Billboard it was “substantially revised by Bruce.”
Of course, Springsteen couldn’t have predicted how the ad would be received. Lesson learned we suppose.
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