The NFL has been dealing with partisan political statements in the form of players who have chosen to sit or kneel during the national anthem for months. But when a veterans group asked to place an advertisement in the official Super Bowl program asking people to “#PleaseStand,” the league decided it was too political. Here’s the print ad which the NFL rejected:

The NFL says commemorative memorabilia is not the place for politics. From CNN:

The NFL said it rejected the ad because it made a “political statement.”

“The Super Bowl program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams, and the Super Bowl,” said NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy in the statement. “It has never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”…

“We looked to work with the organization and asked it to consider other options such as ‘Please Honor our Veterans’. They chose not to and we asked it to consider using ‘Please Stand for Our Veterans,'” McCarthy said.

The league and the group proposed a number of possible versions of the ad, but they couldn’t agree, according to McCarthy. The program eventually went to print without a final version of the ad ready.

It’s not clear to me how “Please Stand for Our Veterans” was acceptable as sufficiently non-political but “#PleaseStand” crossed a line. The only difference is the hashtag. I suspect the NFL decided they didn’t want to see #PleaseStand trending on Super Bowl Sunday, though the underlying message is really the same. In a letter to Commissioner Goodell, AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk points out that his group supports players exercising their freedom of speech and just wanted to be allowed to do the same:

In a January 22 letter to NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk wrote, “freedom of speech works both ways. 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.”

The same ad was accepted by both the NHL and NBA and is slated to run in the official programs for each organization’s all-star games.

The decision not to allow the ad is going to backfire on the NFL. Before it would have attracted some attention, now that the league has banned it, it’s certainly going to attract a lot more. Here’s hoping #PleaseStand is trending on Twitter a week from Sunday.