SETTING THINGS STRAIGHT FOR THE NFL
Patrick Creighton: Taking a stand against grandstanding
I have the utmost respect for our veterans. Both of my grandfathers served in World War II. I grew up in my grandfather’s house, played with the Japanese rifle he brought home, wore his army jacket to school. He was the biggest male role model in my life. These men were the bravest of the brave. I always make it a point to say thank you to any veteran I see for their service.
Admittedly, I don’t have much respect for those at the NFL offices at 345 Park Ave. They are arrogant, dismissive, power hungry, corrupt, and often make fools of themselves. This is why writing this is going to be difficult, but here it is.
There are dozens of stories making the rounds, some in print, all online, about how the NFL rejected an advertisement from a veteran’s group. Almost all of these stories are condemning the NFL, and even more give very little information about what actually transpired. These publishers know that a substantial amount of people will see the salacious headline, be outraged, and share the story. They never expect you to read multiple stories all the way through and educate yourself on all the details, particularly the ones they omitted.
AMVETS is an organization that was founded to support World War II veterans. They work in the interests of their members. I don’t take issue with them for trying to get a message published. I do take issue with their grandstanding and posturing in the wake of their ad being rejected.
They wanted to run an ad in the official Super Bowl program with the message #PleaseStand. They were rejected, and now they are angry and claiming censorship and denial of freedom of speech.
It’s grandstanding. I loathe grandstanding. Also, they’re wrong on both counts.
Not only is the NFL well within their rights to choose who they will and will not accept as advertising partners, they also are well within their rights to choose what is and isn’t an acceptable message for their program. This goes for any potential marketing partner, be it your favorite church or your favorite “gentleman’s establishment,” they can choose who they want to be associated with. Frequently we look at this in reverse, with the advertiser having the right to choose who will and will not represent their product (think athlete who just got arrested for doing something really bad losing sponsors as a result). This works both ways.
Also, something omitted in most stories, is that the NFL tried to work with AMVETS to modify the ad to be more palatable to them. NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the NFL asked AMVETS to change the verbiage from “Please Stand” to “Please Honor Our Veterans” or “Please Stand For Our Veterans.” AMVETS refused.
Why would they refuse? They are a veteran’s advocacy group. Isn’t the point of what they are saying to show honor and respect to the veterans they represent? Unless there is something more, and here is what that could be (and most likely is):
AMVETS wants to poke the bear that is NFL player demonstrations during the anthem. The NFL wants no part of that, just as much as they want no part of player demonstrations, particularly during its grandest event. The largest complaint about demonstrations by people is they want the sport and entertainment value, and none of the politics. The NFL has seen polls and is heeding the information. They understand that #PleaseStand can and will be construed as a direct shot at those players who have demonstrated for social justice (remember, the players have all expressed support for military, and said the demonstration is expressly about social injustice. Some of these players, such as Michael and Martellus Bennett, come from military families). The NFL doesn’t want to add fuel to the fire with what is already a difficult subject with the players.
Consider now that the NFL is also dealing with the Colin Kaepernick grievance that owners have colluded to keep him from playing. #PleaseStand would be straight ammunition for Kaepernick’s lawyers. NFL owners being honest with themselves have to know that this grievance will not be easy for them to win, and the stakes are extremely high as losing means the CBA is null and void, and all the power and gains the NFL stole from the players in the 2011 lockout would have to be renegotiated in a much more difficult environment.
However, it’s still important to note, these are paid advertisements. It’s not about freedom of speech in any way, shape or form. Corporate censorship is very much acceptable, and enforced on a daily basis (See ESPN’s social media policies). Saying what you want is your right; it doesn’t make you immune from punishment in the private business sector, just from the government. Businesses absolutely can monitor and regulate what their employees and business partners are saying or promoting.
Further, another veteran’s group, the Veterans of Foreign Wars (every town in America has a VFW hall, right?) has an ad in the Super Bowl LII program. It states “We Stand For Veterans.” It was approved.
While it’s clear the NFL is being careful with messages sent, it’s also clear that the NFL is 100% perfectly fine with any message honoring veterans.
Therefore, by refusing to make the verbiage changes, AMVETS has exposed themselves for both grandstanding and politicizing. This makes it clear they wanted to go after the players who demonstrated, not honor the veterans whom they represent. Don’t let those internet headlines fool you into thinking otherwise.
The NFL is actually getting it right, and protecting their players (as well as the shield, which we know is always job 1). They shouldn’t give in to grandstanding groups, even veteran’s groups, with clear political agendas.