NFL rejects 'Please Stand' ad from veterans group

The NFL has rejected a one-page advertisement for the Super Bowl program from the American Veterans (AMVETS) organization that included the message "Please Stand."

“The Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl,” NFL spokesman Brian 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.”

Joe Chenelly, executive director of AMVETS, said players who protest by kneeling during the national anthem are exercising their free speech and that AMVETS only wanted to do the same.

“The protests are very much out of our purview,” he said. “We were not looking to comment on those. This is part of our Americanism program” in which the organization conducts seminars in schools and with youth groups on the proper way to display, care for and respect the flag.

Marion Polk, AMVETS national commander, wrote a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, dated Monday, that says in part: “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.”

“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.”

Ads for the program are not sold through the NFL but with a third-party publisher. The NFL has final say on approving what goes into the program.

The Super Bowl is set to take place Feb. 4 between the Patriots and the Eagles. Neither team has had players stage protests in recent weeks, with Philadelphia safety Malcolm Jenkins having abandoned his practice of raising a fist during the anthem in early December, after the NFL agreed to provide approximately $90 million social causes deemed important by players.

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