AMVETS, the veterans organization is crying foul and corporate censorship on the part of the NFL after the league rejected its one-page ad for the NFL’s Super Bowl program with the message “Please Stand.” According to an AMVETS spokesman, similar ads were accepted by both the NHL and NBA for official programs produced for their respective All-Star games.
“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 told USA TODAY Sports by email. “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 service members in the Super Bowl with memorable on-field moments that will be televised as part of the game.”
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.
“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” — as in #PleaseStand — “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.”
The kneeling protests have been a hot-button issue all year, but since early in the NFL season, the protests have subsided. However, AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk wrote a letter to the Commissioner of the NFL Roger Goodell saying that 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.”
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