NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Tuesday defended the NFL's decision to refuse to approve an advertisement from American Veterans (AMVETS) that would have run in the Super Bowl program. The ad asked for donations to the organization that aims to "enhance and safeguard the entitlements" for individuals who have served in the U.S. military but it also included this message in large letters: "Please Stand."
"Please Stand" refers to those NFL players who took a knee during the national anthem to protest social injustice. President Trump routinely criticized these players during the season, even telling Alabama rallygoers in September, "Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b---- off the field right now. Out. He's fired. He's fired!"
Goodell defended the decision Tuesday citing, in part, the league's policy against ads that carry a political message.
"It's not an indication of any lack of support," Goodell said during an appearance on ESPN Radio, via PFT. "We have a VFW ad that talks about, celebrates the important work that our veterans are doing, and of course you all know we're going to have 15 medal of honor winners that we're bringing together at the Super Bowl, which I think is the largest number of medal of honor winners ever brought together at any event other than their annual national gathering."
In a letter sent earlier this month to Goodell, AMVETS national commander Marion Polk noted, via the Washington Post, that while his group was "well aware of the controversy surrounding players kneeling during the national anthem and the public relations problems this has caused the NFL, our ad is neither a demand nor a judgment upon those who choose to kneel."
According to Polk, the ad was "a simple, polite request that represents the sentiment of our membership, particularly those whose missing or paralyzed limbs preclude standing."
In response to Polk's letter, NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy told the Post that the Super Bowl program "is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl." And that the league "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."
Meanwhile, in announcing the return of the XFL last week, Vince McMahon declared that every player will stand for the national anthem.