Tomase: NFL makes right call rejecting veterans' 'Please stand' Super Bowl LII ad

John Tomase
January 23, 2018 - 12:56 pm

David Butler II-USA TODAY Sports


The latest installment in the NFL's reluctant foray into the culture wars: Super Bowl advertising.

The league is drawing heat for rejecting a one-page ad from a veterans group that would have run in the official Super Bowl LII game program asking simply, "Please stand."

The league rejected the ad on the grounds that it's overly political. It was submitted by AMVETS, a veterans organization that noted similar ads were accepted for the NBA and NHL All-Star Game programs, per USA Today.

"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 told USA Today. "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 knee-jerk responses against the NFL have been predictable. How can a league that allows kneeling during the anthem, or that looked the other way when Colin Kaepernick wore pig socks, turn around and deny veterans their voice?

OK, I'll bite. The league has wanted no part of this whole kneeling thing since the beginning. President Donald Trump dashed those hopes by exploiting the issue to inflame a base that skews old, white, male, and ignorant, tapping into some of our nation's worst impulses -- nationalism, conformism, and yes, racism. It's no coincidence that most of the players he's criticizing are black.

The anthem protests, launched in the hopes of starting a discussion about police brutality and the treatment of minority communities, have largely petered out. Why revive them? Just as it would be inappropriate for the NFL to run an ad from a group demanding that players kneel, the same holds for the flip side.

The NFL allowed players to exercise their rights to free speech when the issue dominated headlines during the fall, particularly since kneeling represented peaceful protest, and a harsher response risked player mutiny. As for Kaepernick, I'd argue he's paid a stiff price for his choice of porcine hosiery: unemployment.

But nowhere in the Bill of Rights do our free speech rights extend to paid advertising, even in support of the troops, whom the NFL has always courted in a crass bid to serve as the de facto fifth branch of the armed services. The NFL can reject anyone's ad for any reason it wants.

The league made the right call. It's a Super Bowl program for god's sake. It's the definition of milquetoast and inoffensive. Fill the thing with Pepsi cans wrapped in American flags and Chevy Tahoes hauling bald eagles to the Lincoln Memorial and call it a day.

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