The NFL rejected a veteran group’s request to place a full-page ad in the Super Bowl LII program because — ironically — the advertisement requesting that people stand for the playing of the national anthem is too “political” for such an arena.
AMVETS’ proposed ad, which would have cost about $30,000, was denied on the grounds that the game program has “never been a place” for ads that could be considered “political” statements.
“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said, according to USA TODAY Sports.
“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 service members in the Super Bowl with memorable on-field moments that will be televised as part of the game.”
By the way, this is the ad (shown on the left):
— Sporting News (@sportingnews) January 23, 2018
How did the group respond?
AMVETS executive director Joe Chenelly said that the organization only wanted to exercise its right to free speech, much like the players who exercised their right to demonstrate during the playing of the national anthem.
“The protests are very much out of our purview,” Chenelly told Army Times. “We were not looking to comment on those.”
Chenelly said that the ad was for the group’s Americanism program, which is held for young people to learn “about their American heritage, civics and citizenship.”
According to the group’s website, the Americanism program includes “flag drawing” as well as “poster and essay contests that are grade specific and age appropriate.”
In response to the decision against running the ad, AMVETS national commander — Marion Polk — penned a strongly worded letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, calling the denial to run the ad “reprehensible.”
A portion of the letter read, “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. 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.”
“Veterans are good for more than just military aircraft flyovers, photo opportunities during halftime, or props to sell camouflage-style NFL apparel; although, the NFL’s stance on not allowing the veterans’ unfiltered voice to be heard says otherwise,” the letter added, according to Fox News.
McCarthy, the NFL spokesman, also told USA TODAY Sports that it tried to work with the group in order for them to place a passable ad.
“We looked to work with the organization and asked it to consider other options such as ‘Please Honor our Veterans,'” McCarthy said. “They chose not to and we asked it to consider using ‘Please Stand for Our Veterans.’ Production was delayed as we awaited an answer. As the program was going to production, the organization asked about including a hashtag, and was informed that approval would not be provided in time and was asked to approve the ad without the hashtag.”
“The organization did not respond and the program ultimately went into production to meet deadlines,” McCarthy said, noting that an ad placed by the VFW — which had a similar tenor to that of AMVETS’ proposed ad — had been approved prior to the AMVETS submission.
He said that the VFW’s proposed ad, which featured a tagline that read “We Stand for Veterans,” was approved.
According to Army Times, Major League Baseball and the National Hockey League both accepted the same #PleaseStand ad submitted to the NFL.