ATLANTA (CN) — Georgia state legislators Thursday unanimously passed a resolution denouncing the National Football League for allowing players to kneel but not letting a veterans group advertise in the printed game program for the Super Bowl.
Republican state Senator David Shafer introduced the resolution in response to the NFL’s decision not to allow AMVETS, a prominent veterans group with over 250,000 members, to advertise in the printed game program for Sunday’s Super Bowl LII.
Shafer, who is running for lieutenant governor, said he was driven to action by what he perceived to be hypocrisy within the NFL.
“I was skeptical when NFL officials tried to justify the organized disrespect for our flag by citing free speech,” Shafer said in the proposal. “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 ad submitted by AMVETS to the NFL prominently featured the words “#PleaseStand” above a photo of a military honor guard holding the American flag. The “#PleaseStand” statement is a response to the silent, kneeling protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick in 2016. NFL players continue to kneel in protest of racial injustice.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the ad was rejected for its overtly political nature.
“The Super Bowl program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl,” McCarthy said in a statement. “It has never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
McCarthy claims that the NFL tried to work with AMVETS to reach a compromise but were unable to do so by the time the program went into production.
Among the alternative slogan options offered by the NFL were “Please Honor Our Veterans” and “Please Stand For Our Veterans.”
Marion Polk, AMVETS national commander, responded to the NFL’s refusal of the ad in a letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
“Freedom of speech works both ways,” Polk wrote, “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.”
Polk went on to describe the ad as “a polite request that represents the sentiment of our membership, particularly those whose missing or paralyzed limbs preclude standing.”
The Georgia resolution similarly opts not to mince words in its rebuttal to the NFL’s decision.
“The National Football League has abandoned even the pretense of supporting free speech and dissent, silencing a major veterans’ organization while condoning organized disrespect and contempt for the Flag of the United States and the National Anthem,” the resolution says.
Georgia’s Senate Minority Leader, Democrat Steven Henson, released a statement Thursday expressing disapproval at the passage of the resolution.
“We are embarrassed the Lieutenant Governor would slip a resolution through in a deceptive manner without debate,” Henson said. “Many members of the body had concerns about this issue and how it was rushed to a vote without notice. This is nothing more than an expression of an individual running for Lieutenant Governor who wants to play politics at the expense of individuals’ rights and human decency.”
Senator Henson did not immediately respond to a request for additional comment.
Georgia is not alone in responding to the NFL’s decision.
South Carolina Republican Gov. Henry McMaster issued a proclamation designating the day of the big game as “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”
In Tennessee, a Republican legislator running for governor said she would run an ad during the pregame show saying: “It’s too bad that the league doesn’t respect the patriotism of our national anthem.”