NFL Sponsors Starting to Push Back Over Anthem Protests

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AP Photo/Ron Schwane

One sector in the NFL has been fairly quiet over the constant protests during the playing of the national anthem. However, a few NFL advertisers and sponsors are beginning to make their opinions known. Moreover, some are finding customers telling them what their opinions are.

On the one hand, Ford Motor Co., Nike, Under Armour Inc., Hyundai Motor Co., Anheuser-Busch InBev SA and several others issued statements in support of the players’ “right” to protest against the country during the anthem. However, trying to have it both ways, many of these companies also reaffirmed their own support of the flag, the country, and their patriotism, Bloomberg wrote.

Many of the statements mention the American tradition of individual rights, but they also said that they support flag and country.

Hyundai, for instance, said “We stand for and respect individuals’ freedoms to express their First Amendment rights in any peaceful manner in which they choose. We also stand for inclusion, freedom and all that represents those values.”

Ford told customers that they “respect individuals’ rights to express their views, even if they are not ones we share. That’s part of what makes America great.”

For its part, sports apparel giant Under Armour said it “stands for the flag and by our athletes for free speech, expression, and a unified America.”

Finally, the Nike sports apparel company was one of the few that did not seem to hedge by releasing a statement saying, “Nike supports athletes and their right to freedom of expression on issues that are of great importance to our society.”

But on the other hand, one company has now canceled its sponsorship of the Denver Broncos after the team protested in Week Three.

Before Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Von Miller and a group of Broncos players took a knee as the anthem played. Though, that was a step too far for Miller’s sponsor, Phil Long Ford in Denver.

According to CBS Denver, Phil Long immediately pulled his ads featuring Von Miller. Though the Ford dealer insisted that he is just “changing ads,” the timing is suspicious coming just after Miller took a knee on Sunday.

Still, from a statement released about the ads, it is clear that Phil Long is not comfortable with the protests.

Here is Long’s statement:

We are evaluating the events of the weekend. It is important to state that we haven’t fired Von. We are in the middle of contract renewal and this weekend’s events remind us that sometimes we feel that we best represent ourselves. We support Von and his first amendment rights, we know Von, and he’s a good person. He donated a police car to his hometown police dept. All that notwithstanding when we bring in celebrities to represent us we run the risk of being misrepresented.

We, like millions of Americans, are concerned and will respond consistently with our values as a proud American company founded by a war hero (Phil Long). While we can’t control the actions of others, we can be responsible for how we support our nation and community. That is why, years ago, our principal owner, Jay Cimino, founded the Mount Carmel Veteran’s Service center, and is supported by all Phil Long Dealerships. We support this cause not just with our words, but financially as well, and it is serving hundreds of veterans in need right here in Colorado. This would be a great time for our community to show support for our military community by supporting this cause or others that continue to serve them after they serve us.

With his focus on the veterans, it is clear that Mr. Long did not appreciate Miller’s protests.

Finally, some customers of sponsors are also demanding that support of the NFL be ended.

Members of USAA, an insurance company that caters to members of the military, are organizing to demand that the insurance company drop its sponsorship of the NFL and the company’s community message board section on its website is deluged with demands that USAA dump the NFL.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.


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