Governor Murphy, stop letting New Jersey play second banana to New York
Gov. Phil Murphy in Times Square on May 18, 2023, to tout the absurdly named "New York/New Jersey FIFA World Cup 2026." (Jake Hirsch/NJ Governor's Office)
New Jerseysans are conditioned to battle when someone comes for our lovely state.
From birth, we’re made to feel lesser because we’re not New York City and we’re not Philadelphia. The two NFL teams that play here pretend they don’t. Influencers who live on our side of the Hudson waterfront claim in their Twitter bios that they live in New York. Motorists who use us as a pass-through act like all of New Jersey looks and smells like Exit 13A.
We’re tough, though, and we can handle outsiders maligning us.
But must our governor do it, too?
Gov. Phil Murphy was on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” recently bragging about some World Cup matches coming to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford in 2026, though he could barely mention the state he governs without adding New York first. He also appeared to forget New Jersey entirely when arguing why MetLife should also host the tournament’s final men’s match over other locales competing for the game.
“New York is the international capital of the world. With no disrespect to Dallas, we’re talking about New York,” Murphy said.
Later, Murphy appeared in Times Square with New York City Mayor Eric Adams to reveal the logo and branding for what they’re calling “The New York / New Jersey FIFA World Cup 2026,” because of course New York gets first billing when a bunch of soccer matches play here in New Jersey. One of the slogans is “WE ARE NYNJ.” Eyeroll.
These are all, in Murphy parlance, knucklehead moves. Most governors go out of their way to tout their state as the best of 50. Ours is letting us play second fiddle to New York even though we’re hosting an event that could score us untold amounts of tourism dollars.
Jen A. Miller is a South Jersey-based writer who regularly pens columns defending the Garden State (“Stop hating on New Jersey” is the headline of one from last year). Miller said when she’s traveling and tells people she’s from New Jersey, she often hears, “Oh, New York?”
“When our governor does that, it’s bullshit,” she said.
Miller told me what makes Murphy’s eagerness to let New Jersey take a backseat on the World Cup is his own push to make New Jersey a safe haven for people seeking abortions in the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade.
Murphy should be bragging about his state, not letting New York overshadow us, Miller said.
“We are really leading the country — us and a handful of over states, California, Minnesota — by protecting bodily autonomy and providing it for people who can afford to travel here. And the governor doesn’t want to scream about that? What’s wrong with him?” she said.
The Murphy administration tells us we’re being petty. The World Cup partnership is “mutually beneficial” for New Jersey and New York, it said, and planning for it requires a “coordinated all-hands-on-deck effort from the entire metro area.”
“We are not concerned about trivial debates regarding which state is featured more prominently in our branding and will not allow them to distract us from the ultimate prize — the prospect of lifting the World Cup on New Jersey soil,” Murphy spokesman Bailey Lawrence said.
Progress! They admit the World Cup will indeed be played on New Jersey soil, not NY/NJ soil.
Rich Boggiano, a councilman from Jersey City, has a history of getting cranky when New Jersey is forgotten. He made national news in 2014 when he corrected the Seattle Seahawks coach — who was in New Jersey for the Super Bowl that year — after the guy said he was glad to be back in New York. He’s been quoted in news articles going back decades saying the Statue of Liberty is a resident of the Garden State.
I gave Boggiano a call. He had not heard that the World Cup is coming to New Jersey or about the push to rebrand our two states as one. But I discovered it’s still a pet peeve of his when New Jersey is overshadowed by its taller and glitzier neighbor across the Hudson.
“This is New Jersey. We’re not New York. And the reason why New Jersey is always in the background is it kisses the ass of New York City. Cut the crap out,” he said.
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