The National Football League is set to feature an ad touting “unity” during Sunday Night Football this week, even as more and more players join to display disunity against the country fostered by protests staged during the playing of the national anthem.
A spokesman for the NFL told CNN that the ad is the “single best response to demonstrate what we are about,” according to Variety.
The ad begins with a hazy shot of an empty stadium as sounds from old sportscasters is heard. It segues to a groundskeeper with a paint roller making white markers on the filed all before the voice-over begins.
“Inside these lines, we don’t have to come from the same place to help each other reach the same destination,” actor Forest Whitaker says in the voice-over. “Inside these lines, we may have our differences, but recognize there’s more that unites us.”
Whitaker soon notes the “fight to move forward” as the video shows the Seattle Seahawks standing arm-in-arm on the sidelines.
The video also features a brief glimpse of female referee Sarah Thomas and ends with Whitaker saying we can “live united inside these lines” as the camera pulls back to reveal that the groundskeeper was marking out the shape of the United States on the football field.
The ad comes after more than a year of contentious protests by millionaire players who have knelt or sat during the playing of the national anthem. Started in 2016 by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, the protests began to spread like a virus across the NFL and also metastasized into other sports.
The protests got new life late last week when President Donald Trump criticized the NFL for allowing the anthem protests and expressed his hope that protesting players would be fired.
Trump spoke to the NFL’s growing anti-American protests during a rally for Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange held inHuntsville, Alabama.
The controversy further enflamed during the Friday campaign rally sparked a statement by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell which slammed Trump for creating disunity. Goodell’s statement, in turn, elicited a response by Trump who urged the commissioner to tell the players to stand during the national anthem.
Inside these lines, we can bring out the best in each other and live united. pic.twitter.com/nQpUrKFL4T
— NFL (@NFL) September 24, 2017
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.