Last week, the NFL announced that they would not run an ad from a veterans group called, AMVETS. The advertisement, which was slated to run in the program for Super Bowl LII, included the hashtag, “#PleaseStand.”
An obvious reference to the national anthem protests which became pervasive throughout the NFL in 2017. The group intended for the hashtag to serve as encouragement for all Americans to show respect for military veterans by standing for, and respecting the national anthem.
However, the NFL saw the ad differently.
Last week, NFL Spokesman Brian McCarthy said that ads run in the Super Bowl program are “designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl.”
McCarthy added, “It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
On Tuesday, during an appearance on ESPN Radio, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell doubled-down on the NFL’s decision by re-affirming the league’s stance that the AMVETS ad was political.
“It’s not an indication of any lack of support,” Goodell said. “We have a VFW ad that talks about, celebrates the important work that our veterans are doing, and of course you all know we’re going to have 15 medal of honor winners that we’re bringing together at the Super Bowl, which I think is the largest number of medal of honor winners ever brought together at any event other than their annual national gathering.”
Putting aside for a moment, the rather obvious hypocrisy of the league refusing to run an ad from a veterans group asking people to stand for the anthem, because it’s “political.” While simultaneously giving $90 million to NFL player activists who chose to use football games as a platform for political protest.
Some more detail on the league’s specific reasoning for killing the ad came from a conversation Breitbart Sports had with AMVETS National Director of Communications, John Hoellwarth. According to Hoellwarth, the NFL wanted AMVETS to change the #PleaseStand wording and replace it with the message: “Please Stand with our Veterans.”
However, because the group wanted to stay true to their original message of encouraging people to respect veterans specifically by showing respect for the anthem, AMVETS declined the NFL’s re-wording. Believing that the NFL’s version reduced their ad to a mere general message of support for veterans, as opposed to the heartfelt message about support for veterans and the anthem, that it was intended to be.
So, in essence, the NFL made a political calculation and decision to support the players and their anthem protests. Then, when AMVETS opposed it, the league declined to do business with them while accusing the veterans group of being political.
Yet, it’s the NFL’s political nature which is truly on display here. Given the way the NFL has responded to the AMVETS ad versus the way they handled the player protests, the league has set forth the precedent that supporting the anthem is political, while protesting the anthem is not. A stance that is not only wrong, but inherently political.
The NFL’s sudden immovability on the subject of politically-themed messaging at the Super Bowl is also perplexing given their recent track record.
The NFL allowed Beyonce to perform her song Formation during the Super Bowl halftime show in 2016. As Breitbart reported at the time, the video for Formation includes, “white police officers harassing young black people, including a shot of graffiti that reads ‘stop shooting us.’ The video also shows Beyoncé lying on a flooded New Orleans police car, in a reference to the Katrina disaster that many blame on George W. Bush.”
The choreography during Beyonce’s halftime performance included a moment where all of the black leather-clad dancers formed a giant “X” in the middle of the field, in an obvious tribute to Malcolm X.
The dancers also raised their fists skyward in the “black power” salute.
It’s important to note, none of this occurred where the AMVETS ad would have been placed, in a Super Bowl program whose advertisements would only be seen or read by those in attendance. Beyonce’s massive anti-police demonstration occurred on an NFL football field during the Super Bowl halftime show, and was broadcast internationally to tens of millions of people.
How is it that less political than asking people to respect veterans by standing for the anthem?