NFL censors AMVETS Super Bowl ad responding to anthem protests
The National Football League is refusing to run an ad in the official Super Bowl game program by AMVETS that references the player protests against the National Anthem.
.@AMVETSHQ will NOT tolerate the @NFL refusing #Veteran right to free speech. We fought for it! #PleaseStand #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/NARbC5zKuE— Marion Polk (@AMVETSNatlCmdr) January 22, 2018
Apparently, the picture of the flag, a veteran, and the words "#Please Stand" terrified the NFL to the point where they refused to run it.
Group leaders said NFL officials refused to include the ad in their Super Bowl publication, but did not issue a reason why. In a statement, AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk said the issue is one of fairness and respect.
"Freedom of speech works both ways," he said. "We respect the rights of those who choose to protest, as these rights are precisely what our members have fought – and in many cases died – for.
"But imposing corporate censorship to deny that same right to those veterans who have secured it for us all is reprehensible and totally beyond the pale."
The NFL says it won't run a "political statement." Spokesmen pointed to an ad that will run in the program by the VFW that reads "We Stand for Veterans" as being acceptable.
In a statement, NFL [v]ice [p]resident of [c]ommunications Brian McCarthy said the Super Bowl game program "is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, [the] players, [the] teams[,] and the Super Bowl. It's never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement."
They noted that the program will include a similar ad from the Veterans of Foreign Wars that states simply "We Stand for Veterans." McCarthy said AMVETS was asked to consider changing [its] ad to read "Please Stand for Our Veterans" but did not reply in time for production deadlines.
Why is the AMVETS ad "political" and the VFW ad not?
I suppose the NFL sees the AMVETS ad as challenging its weak-kneed response to anthem protests by players. It's not so much "political" as making the NFL look weak and ineffective. The people running the NFL probably also fear backlash from players, who wouldn't take kindly to a veterans group challenging their protests.
The NFL is proving to be an outlier among professional sports leagues when it comes to urging respect for the flag and the anthem:
AMVETS officials said the same #PleaseStand ad was accepted by the National Hockey League and Major League Baseball for inclusion in their all-star games' programs. The organization sees the advertisement as an extension of their role as a "nonpartisan advocate for veterans and their families."
The NFL is a private corporation and has the right to accept or reject any advertisement on TV or elsewhere. But the rejection of the AMVET ad highlights the paralyzing fear felt by the NFL over the anthem protests that has dramatically affected its popularity.