AMVETS officials have a message for the NFL: "Freedom of speech works both ways."
In what AMVETS say is a case of "corporate censorship," the NFL, which, unlike several other professional sports leagues, has allowed its players to protest the singing of the national anthem — and has paid dearly for doing so — has refused to run the "#PleaseStand" ad the veterans group produced in response to the divisive protest movement.
"Freedom of speech works both ways," said AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk, the Army Times reports. "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."
The group says the $30,000 ad featured service members saluting Old Glory as well as their response to the #TakeAKnee message: "#PleaseStand."
NFL Vice President of Communications Brian McCarthy told the Army Times in a statement that the league asked AMVETS to change their message to "Please Stand for Our Veterans," but the group was unable to make changes in time for the deadline. The NFL is running a similar ad from the Veterans of Foreign Wars with the message, "We Stand for Veterans."
While the NFL for two years now has allowed players to sit, kneel, raise a fist or perform other symbolic acts during the performance of "The Star-Spangled Banner," the league says the Super Bowl is not a time for political messages. The Super Bowl, said McCarthy, has "never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement."
Despite the league's current claims, as The Daily Wire highlighted last year, Super Bowl ads have often been politically charged.
Amid backlash against the anthem protests, players have insisted that their refusal to stand to honor the flag is not an act of protest against the nation as a whole, and thus is not an act of disrespect for those who have fought and are fighting to protect her. However, the founder of the movement, still unemployed former QB Colin Kaepernick, very clearly spelled out the reason he chose to initially sit and then kneel for the anthem: to protest the country as a whole.
"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 said in August 2016 during the 2016 preseason. "To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder."
Kaepernick followed up that statement with other public denunciations of America, even at one point comparing her unfavorably to Communist Cuba.
The protests escalated in September 2017 after President Trump called on league owners to fire the "son of a b****" players who continued the divisive act of disrespect, with over 200 players refusing to honor the flag one weekend.