A Denver car dealer is now reassessing his sponsorship of Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller after the player took a knee during the playing of the national anthem last weekend.
Before Sunday’s game against the Buffalo Bills, Miller led a group of Broncos players in taking a knee as the anthem played. However, Miller’s sponsor, Phil Long Ford in Denver, was unhappy with the player’s protest.
According to CBS Denver, Phil Long immediately pulled his ads featuring the Super Bowl champion. Though the Ford dealer insisted that he has not yet decided to fire Miller, the statement he released made it clear he is not comfortable with Miller’s actions.
Here is the car dealer’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. https://veteranscenter.org/
With his focus on the veterans, it is clear that Mr. Long did not appreciate Miller’s protests.
For his part, Miller claimed he felt the need to respond to President Donald Trump’s critique of the NFL for allowing players to protest during the playing of the national anthem.
“Me and my teammates, we felt like President Trump’s speech was an assault on our most cherished right, freedom of speech,” Miller said. “Collectively, we felt like we had to do something for this game, if not any other game — if not in the past, in the future — at this moment in time, we felt like, as a team, we had to do something. We couldn’t just let things go. I have a huge respect for the military, our protective services, and everything. I’ve been to Afghanistan, I’ve met real-life superheroes. It wasn’t any disrespect to them, it was for our brothers that have been attacked for things that they do during the game, and I felt like I had to join them on it.”
If the Denver Ford dealer does end up cutting ties with the Broncos linebacker over the protests, the move could spark a rush of local sponsors across the nation ending relationships with players and teams.
How many other high-profile players could lose the close ties they have developed with local sponsors and communities because of their protests against the country?
Sponsors in more conservative areas of the nation may also have a larger effect in this way. For instance, on Sunday all of the Tennessee Titans refused to take the field during the playing of the anthem.
— The Hill (@thehill) September 24, 2017
Will local Tennessee sponsors act to distance themselves from the disrespect shown for the country and our national song? The situation in Denver bears a close watch for its possible larger consequences.
Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston.