The NFL has rejected an ad for the Super Bowl's printed program submitted by a national veterans organization. The full-page ad features a photo of the American flag, along with the words "Please Stand."
"While we are well aware of the controversy surrounding players kneeling during the National Anthem and the public relations problems this has caused the NFL, our ad is neither a demand nor a judgment upon those who choose to kneel during the National Anthem," AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk said in a letter sent to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on Monday.
"It's a simple, polite request that represents the sentiment of our membership, particularly those whose missing or paralyzed limbs preclude standing. We sought to give a new context to the discussion from the perspective of veterans who had been largely disregarded."
The ad is said to have cost the nonprofit organization $30,000.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in a statement Monday: "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."
According to McCarthy, the league tried to work with AMVETS in coming up with alternative wording but had no success.
"We looked to work with the organization and asked it to consider other options such as "Please Honor our Veterans," McCarthy stated. "They chose not to and we asked it to consider using 'Please Stand for Our Veterans.' Production was delayed as we awaited an answer."
Another veterans organization, Veterans of Foreign Wars, submitted a similar ad with the slogan, "We Stand for Veterans," McCarthy said. That ad was approved by the league.
Former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started a movement in 2016 by refusing to stand for the national anthem before games as a social protest against the number of black men killed by police. Several other players have done the same during the last two seasons, particularly after President Trump, early in the 2017 season, called on team owners to fire players who protested in such a manner.
"Freedom of speech works both ways," Polk said in his letter. "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."