On Sunday night, shortly after the Philadelphia Eagles’ victory in the NFC Championship game, the Empire State Building lit up with the team’s green-and-white colors.
It was a bizarre sight. Although the building is perhaps more a world icon than a local landmark, it is still smack in the middle of New York City, home of the New York Giants, who are a fierce rival of the Super Bowl–bound Eagles. It seemed as though NYC’s most famous edifice was intentionally rubbing the city’s current sports futility in the face of its residents.
Predictable online outrage ensued. City agencies’ sentient Twitter accounts weighed in with their disgust, and the New York Post and New York Daily News saw a primo front-page opportunity. On Monday, Governor Kathy Hochul made it clear she was not responsible for the decision.
With all the faux-humorous corporate and government tweets flying around, the whole thing has felt like a very 2023 mini-news cycle. But it left one burning question: Why did the Empire State Building do this in the first place?
Lighting up with Philly colors might have seemed more like an attention-getting stunt than anything else. But as New Yorkers know, the building’s colors change frequently to commemorate all kinds of occasions. A calendar tracking these momentous and not-so-momentous occasions — Hanukkah, Christmas, the 45th anniversary of the Big Apple Circus — clearly states that January 29, 2023 was reserved for honoring the NFC and AFC champions. (Later on Sunday, the building went red and white for the Kansas City Chiefs.) And as the New York Times notes, this has all happened before: After the Eagles won the Super Bowl in 2018, the building duly switched over to green and white, and the same outrage cycle ensued.
Here’s an idea: Maybe the Empire State Building should stop saluting other cities’ sports teams altogether — or, failing that, at least institute a no-rival rule. This already seems to be the case in the realm of baseball. The building celebrated the Chicago Cubs ending their 108-year-old World Series drought in 2016. But it sensibly did not do so for any of the Boston Red Sox’s four titles since 2004. That same guidance should apply to every sport so we don’t have to relive this again and again, possibly as soon as two weeks from now.