The controversy over some players kneeling during the anthem since 2017 has led many to stop watching the league entirely, and veterans and vet groups have been particularly affronted by what they see as disrespect to the country.
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the kneeling trend during the preseason of 2016. Kaepernick admitted he was starting the protests as a way to support Black Lives Matter, a black nationalist movement with Marxist-Leninist ties, and in general protest what he sees as a nation gone awry.
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick told NFL Media at the time.
To combat the trend, the veterans group AMVETS wanted to air an ad during the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 asking all players to stand to show respect to America and the flag.
“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl. It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement,” NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy said in a statement obtained by Military.com.
“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 veterans group hit back, saying the decision amounted to censorship.
“Freedom of speech works both ways. We respect the rights of those who choose to protest, as these rights are precisely what our members have fought—and in many cases died—for. But imposing corporate censorship to deny that same right to those veterans who have secured it for us all is reprehensible and totally beyond the pale,” Marion Polk, the commander of AMVETS said in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell after the decision was made known.
The organization noted that the same advertisement was accepted by the national hockey and basketball leagues (the NHL and NBA) and is slated to run during the organization’s all-star games.