The state Senate passed a resolution filed Sen. David Shafer, R-Duluth, that denounces the NFL for rejecting a Super Bowl ad from a veterans group that addressed the controversy surrounding players kneeling during the National Anthem Thursday.
In a statement released by the Senate, Shafer called the NFL’s refusal to run AMVETS’ ad censorship. The ad featured a military honor guard holding the American flag with the text #PleaseStand across the top of the screen. The NFL said the ad was rejected because it made a political statement.
Shafer, who is running for lieutenant governor, wasn’t buying it and so he filed Senate Resolution 673 Wednesday. It was passed the next day.
“I was skeptical when NFL officials tried to justify the organized disrespect for our flag by citing free speech,” Shafer said. “But their shabby treatment of AMVETS exposes the hypocrisy of that excuse. When America’s veterans try to exercise their free speech, the NFL has no problem telling them to sit down and shut up.”
The resolution is not the only step Shafer is taking to address the AMVET situation. His campaign is set to release digital commercials ahead of the big game this weekend, criticizing the league and calling for players to stand during the National Anthem.
“Our military men and women fought through Hell to keep us free, so the least we can do is stand for them,” Shafer said. “Week after week, the NFL allowed its players to disrespect our veterans. It is time they showed respect for the Flag, our fallen and all those served on the front line of freedom.”
The NFL’s decision to not let the AMVETS ad air during the Super Bowl is the latest move in an already politically charged debate over athletes and other people kneeling during the National Anthem. Opponents of the move call it disrespectful to the American flag.
The practice of players kneeling during the National Anthem began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick did it during the 2016 season as a protest against the way African-Americans are treated by police. It took off this season as more players began kneeling, particularly after President Donald Trump called on the NFL to fire anyone who did it.
While the NFL doesn’t directly sell ad space for the Super Bowl, it has the authority to approve or reject ads based on their content. “The Super Bowl program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl,” NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said in the statement. “It has never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk criticized the decision in a letter to Commissioner Roger Goodell. The 74-year old organization has 250,000 members who are military veterans. “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,” Polk said. “But imposing corporate censorship to deny the same rights to those veterans who have have secured it for us all is reprehensible and totally beyond the pale.”
Shafer echoed Polk’s sentiments, also calling the move censorship on the part of the NFL.
The Georgia senator’s resolution accuses the NFL of “hypocritical actions to silence the AMVETS National Service Foundation and suppress its message that Americans should respectfully stand for the Flag and National Anthem of the United States of America.”