The NFL says its printed Super Bowl game program is no place for politics and has rejected a proposed advertisement by a national veteran’s group asking fans to stand for the national anthem.
The group AMVETS proposed the full-page ad showing an American flag with the hashtag #PleaseStand for the printed program. But the league wanted changes to the image, which is a reference to the controversy over players taking a knee during the anthem to protest civil injustice.
“We said, no, we don’t want to rewrite this thing, this is the important message that we have,” said Joe Chenelly, the national executive director of AMVETS. “We’re not looking for the mundane, we are looking for an important message that we thought was pertinent to this audience.”
By Saturday, the plans for the advertisement had fallen through, Chenelly said. A third-party agency producing the Super Bowl programs had offered AMVETS the nonprofit rate of $30,000 to purchase the ad space.
“A couple days later they came back and said the NFL doesn’t want to go with this issue being addressed, they do not take a position on the issue, and we said that our position is that not taking a position is taking a position,” Chenelly said.
.@AMVETSHQ will NOT tolerate the @NFL refusing #Veteran right to free speech. We fought for it! #PleaseStand #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/NARbC5zKuE— Marion Polk (@AMVETSNatlCmdr) January 22, 2018
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the league asked the veterans group to consider using the slogan “Please Honor Our Veterans” or “Please Stand for Our Veterans.” But AMVETS felt those alternatives were too generic and sidestepped the issue.
“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl,” McCarthy said in a statement. “It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
Anthem protests by some NFL players last year triggered a national debate, and many Americans were split over whether it was appropriate or disrespectful. President Trump hammered the league and players, saying they should be forced to stand.
The NFL tried to work through the issue with AMVETS last week and production of the Super Bowl program was delayed, McCarthy said.
The group was eventually asked to submit the ad without a hashtag but did not, he 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,” he said in the statement.