An Indiana congressman has asked Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay to weigh in on behalf of a proposed Super Bowl ad from American Veterans with the message #PleaseStand, which was rejected by the NFL for being too political.
Rep. Todd Rokita reached out to Mr. Irsay after the NFL turned down the print ad for the Super Bowl LII program over the ad’s reference to the player take-a-knee protests.
“You have spoken eloquently of the NFL’s exemplification of ‘the spirit in which this nation was founded,’ and your civic engagement is a testament to Hoosier values,” said Mr. Rokita, a Republican, in his Jan. 25 letter to Mr. Irsay.
“In your capacity as an influential owner, you have the opportunity to stand up for free expression, our cultural inheritance, and American exceptionalism. I ask that you support airing this ad to defend free speech,” Mr. Rokita said.
It may well be too late for the NFL to change its mind. The game is scheduled for Sunday, and programs for the Super Bowl LII have already been sent to production, said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in a statement last week.
That doesn’t mean the ad will go unnoticed. American Veterans, known as AMVETS, released a 30-second public-service announcement on Wednesday with the message “the NFL doesn’t want you see.”
The American Family Association posted a petition Jan. 23 urging NFL commissioner Roger Goodell to “stop the blatant hypocrisy and accept the patriotic ad by AMVETS as originally submitted.”
The petition had gathered over 102,000 signatures as of Wednesday afternoon.
Mr. McCarthy said the league steers clear of ads that could be viewed as making a “political statement,” but Mr. Rokita argued that the NFL should show the same respect for the First Amendment rights of AMVETS as it did for players refusing to stand for the national anthem.
“In its rejection of the ad, the NFL said the Super Bowl is not the venue for ‘political’ expressions, but the league has consistently defended the rights of its players to free expression when kneeling in protest during the anthem,” said Mr. Rokita.
AMVETS said the NBA and NHL accepted the #PleaseStand ad for their all-star programs, while critics have pointed out that the NFL has aired political ads in the recent past, including television commercials during last year’s Super Bowl on the pay gap and immigration.
The Colts missed the playoffs this season and won’t be participating in the Super Bowl, which features a match-up between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles in Minneapolis.
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