Controversy about NFL players’ protests during the national anthem has gone on this whole season, but it’s now reached an unusual place; the official printed Super Bowl program. As per Leo Shane III of The Army Times, the AMVETS veterans’ organization is decrying “corporate censorship” from the NFL for refusing to run an anti-kneeling ad they submitted for the Super Bowl program:
The ad, which would have cost the veterans organization $30,000, features the tag “#PleaseStand” with a picture of service members saluting the American flag and information on how to donate to the congressionally-chartered organization.
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.
…In a statement, NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said the Super Bowl game program “is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, 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 their ad to read “Please Stand for Our Veterans” but did not reply in time for production deadlines.
AMVETS national commander Marion Polk told Shane “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.” He also issued a further statement on Twitter:
— Marion Polk (@AMVETSNatlCmdr) January 22, 2018
It’s interesting to note that according to AMVETS officials, the same ad was accepted into the all-star game programs for the NHL and MLB. The protests haven’t been as prominent in those leagues (Oakland A’s catcher Bruce Maxwell did kneel for the anthem in September, and Tampa Bay Lightning forward J.T. Brown briefly protested with a raised fist in October, but protests haven’t shown up regularly in those sports), so perhaps they were less worried about it.
But the decision to reject an ad based on “#PleaseStand” versus “We Stand For Veterans” does feel a little arbitrary on the NFL’s part. And rejecting the ad might cause far more controversy than just running it in the first place.