USA Today reports the image below was submitted to the NFL for Super Bowl LII, but was deemed to be too political by the organization. The one-page ad shows the American flag and the hashtag, #PleaseStand–a clear rebuttal to the protests started by athlete-turned-activist Colin Kaepernick.
The player faced scrutiny in 2016 as his mission to bring awareness to racial inequality was blanketed by claims of disrespect to veterans.
— Jan Brown (@AMVETSNatlCmdr) January 22, 2018
While a large portion of the veteran community kneeled with the player on social media, AMVETS made it clear they’re on the opposite end of the argument. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy tells the outlet the game program is meant as an homage to players and fans, but the ad submitted draws lines between political ideologies.
“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl,” McCarthy said. “It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement. The NFL has long supported the military and veterans and will again salute our service members in the Super Bowl with memorable on-field moments that will be televised as part of the game.”
The NFL initially reached out to the group to submit and ad. Efforts to change the ad went undone, leading the NFL to reject the proposed ad.
“We looked to work with the organization and asked it to consider other options such as ‘Please Honor our Veterans,’” McCarthy said. “They chose not to and we asked it to consider using ‘Please Stand for Our Veterans.’ Production was delayed as we awaited an answer. As the program was going to production, the organization asked about including a hashtag” — as in #PleaseStand — “and was informed that approval would not be provided in time and was asked to approve the ad without the hashtag. The organization did not respond and the program ultimately went into production to meet deadlines.”
Supporters of the veteran community have now threatened to boycott the Super Bowl by not tuning in. They’ve also used the hashtag #PleaseStand to shame Kapernick while supporting the troops, causing more divide than unity. Viewership for the NFL dropped 9.7 percent in 2017 with average games going from 16.5 million viewers to 14.9 million last season.