The National Football League has sent a clear message to the Veterans of the U.S. military, and that is that the league would rather support the disrespectful kneeling NFL players than have an advertisement at the Super Bowl that asks for people to “Please Stand,” during the playing of the national anthem reports Stars and Stripes.
Omitted from the programs was a full-page ad picturing the American flag, saluting soldiers and the words “Please Stand,” referring to the movement of NFL players protesting racial inequality and injustice by kneeling during the performance of the national anthem before the start of games.
There has been a large outcry against the NFL player’s method of protesting, especially last fall when President Trump criticized the players and told owners to fire players who knelt.
But in October, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and NFL owners decided the league wouldn’t penalize players for kneeling.
Joe Chenelly, the national director of American Veterans, known as AMVETS, said Monday that the group was “surprised and disappointed” when the NFL told him Friday the league had rejected the ad.
“The NFL said it does not want to take a position on that,” Chenelly said. “Really, by not letting us run an ad, we think they are taking a position.”
Super Bowl LII programs began printing Monday, following the NFC and AFC championship games Sunday night. The New England Patriots will compete against the Philadelphia Eagles in the Super Bowl on Feb. 4.
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement that official Super Bowl programs aren’t a place for political messaging:
“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,” McCarthy said. “The NFL has long supported the military and veterans and will again salute our servicemembers in the Super Bowl with memorable on-field moments that will be televised as part of the game.”
McCarthy said AMVETS was given a chance to amend their ad from “Please Stand” to other options, such as “Please Honor Our Veterans” or “Please Stand for Our Veterans.”
While this ad may not have gotten in, other ads, like from the Veterans of Foreign Wars was approved which reads, “We Stand For Veterans.”
Chenelly argues that since the NFL didn’t hear back from AMVETS about a revision to their ad in time for printing, they did not approve the ad. He said the group responded to the league that changing the words on their ad would mean abandoning their message.
AMVETS, an organization comprising approximately 250,000 veterans and 1,400 posts nationwide, sent a letter to Goodell on Monday calling the decision to exclude their ad an affront to free speech.
“Freedom of speech works both ways. 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,” wrote National Commander Marion Polk. “But imposing corporate censorship to deny that same right to those veterans who have secured it for us all is reprehensible.”
AMVETS was prepared to pay $30,000 to a third-party publisher for the full-page ad, the price available to nonprofits. This ad is a part of their fundraiser “Americanism” initiative, which is traveling around to school nationwide to teach flag etiquette.
Chenelly said it wasn’t the group’s intention to criticize the NFL, though the group did write a letter to the NFL last year in opposition to players kneeling during the anthem.
“We never meant to be disrespectful,” he said
In September, the national commander of the American Legion issued a statement urging people to respect the national anthem. As an organization, AMVETS never called for a boycott of the NFL, but some of their posts stopped showing the games, Chenelly said.
The National Football League has made their own call though about the protests and obviously rather than help much-needed veterans, they would rather support the NFL players who make a mockery of what those veterans did for them.