NFL Rejects Super Bowl Pro-National Anthem Ad From Veterans Group

The National Football League has rejected a proposed advertisement from the American Veterans group, also known as AMVETS, that asked those in attendance to “#PleaseStand” for the national anthem.

The group American Veterans, also known as AMVETS, attempted to purchase an advertisement in the official Super Bowl LII program but was denied by the National Football League. The ad encourages people at the game to stand during the National Anthem. The NFL has been embroiled in a controversy over players kneeling in protest during the National Anthem.

The ad, which was intended for the NFL’s official Super Bowl LII programs, was in response to football players protesting during the national anthem in order to raise awareness of racial injustice.

Stars and Stripes reports that AMVETS was “surprised and disappointed” after the NFL rejected its ad. “The NFL said it does not want to take a position on that. Really, by not letting us run an ad, we think they are taking a position,” said Joe Chennelly, the national director of AMVETS.

Brian McCarthy, the NFL’s vice president of communications, said in a statement that Super Bowl commercials are not the place for political messages:

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. 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.

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. The group had hoped to use the advertisement as a fundraiser for its “Americanism” initiative, in which its members travel to schools nationwide to teach flag etiquette. The program also involves a poster and essay contest for K-12 students.

Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, said players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem are exercising their free speech and that AMVETS only wanted to do the same.

“The protests are very much out of our purview,” he said. “We were not looking to comment on those. This is part of our Americanism program” in which the organization conducts seminars in schools and with youth groups on the proper way to display, care for and respect the flag.

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.