AMVETS recently submitted a powerful Super Bowl ad to the NFL asking the country to stand for our National Anthem. It depicts a veteran holding the American Flag with the words #PleaseStand.
But the NFL is refusing to run it. This is a giant mistake — for the league, the sport and our country.
As a matter of disclosure, I should tell you that I am a football guy. I started playing football as a child growing up in a blue-collar family with my single mom, and continued to play through high school and college. I was a middle linebacker, and to be honest, I still think like one. I’ve got Indianapolis Colts gear for every season and my whole family schedules our time around Colts games. The Messers are football fans.
But the NFL has not made me proud as a fan lately. For nearly a year, the country has watched the NFL act as a megaphone for the left’s "Take a Knee" protests. They have given airtime and a massive public platform to their athletes who’ve chosen to kneel during the anthem and disrespect our flag, our country and our military. The commissioner and many NFL owners bent over backwards to accommodate that political speech.
Now that our veterans are speaking up, too, and asking their fellow citizens to stand for the anthem, this issue is suddenly “too political” for the NFL to swallow.
In explaining why the AMVETS ad was denied, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the game has “never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
The hypocrisy of this is astounding, and Americans see through it. During the Super Bowl last year, politically charged advertisements critical of President Trump dominated the airwaves — including during NFL games on TV stations in swing states.
These ads included melodramatic attacks on the president’s campaign pledges and issue stances, and attempts to mock his character and even appearance. Yet, these weren't too political for the NFL. The NFL’s local broadcast partners took the money and ran.
AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk hit the nail on the head in his response to the NFL this week, reminding them that “freedom of speech works both ways.”
“We respect those who chose to protest, as these rights are precisely what our members fought — and, in many cases, died — for,” Commander Polk said. And he’s absolutely right.
The NFL continues to be a mouthpiece for the left, and they’re starting to realize the consequences. That’s why we’ve seen the NFL’s approval ratings plummet, with the highest unfavorable ratings of any major sport. Television viewership for the second, and largest, round of the playoffs this year severely underperformed ratings for those same games last year.
The NFL should stop caving to political pressure from the Left and run the AMVETS ad. Our veterans deserve to have their voices heard too. AMVETS is the largest service organization open to all veterans, and has branches throughout my home state of Indiana. It’s wrong that the NFL asked this service organization to submit an ad, only to deny it when it didn’t align with their agenda.
And it’s wrong for athletes to kneel during the anthem. I respect differing opinions and everyone’s right to free speech, but we owe it to our military men and women to stand. The NFL’s shield logo is adorned with the red, white and blue colors of the flag our soldiers have fought and died under. The National Football League should respect its own title — and respect the sacrifice it takes to defend the nation the league is supposed to represent.
Rep. Luke Messer, a Republican, represents Indiana's sixth congressional district. He is a candidate for Indiana's Senate election in 2018.