Jan. 23 (UPI) -- The NFL rejected an advertisement submitted by a veterans group for its Super Bowl program featuring the message "Please Stand."
"Freedom of speech works both ways," said AMVETS National Commander Marion Polk.
Since 2016, multiple players throughout the NFL have chosen to kneel during the pre-game national anthem in protest of equality issues including police brutality.
The protests began with former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who remained seated during the anthem at a preseason game as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in August 2016. He later elected to kneel at the suggestion of former Staff Sgt. Nate Boyer, echoing troops "taking a knee" during a mission.
Polk said the NFL's choice not to include AMVETS' ad in its Super Bowl program is an issue of fairness and respect.
"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," he said. "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 Super Bowl game program is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl," McCarthy said. "It's never been a place for advertising what could be considered by some as a political statement. The NFL 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."
McCarthy added a similar ad by the Veterans of Foreign Wars with the tagline "We Stand for Veterans" was accepted.
"We looked to work with [AMVETS] and asked it to consider other options such as 'Please Honor our Veterans'" he said. "They chose not to and we asked it to consider using 'Please Stand for Our Veterans.'"
The group ultimately was unable to have a version of the ad approved before the program went into production in order to meet deadlines.
AMVETS said its proposed ad was approved by the NHL and NBA to appear in their official all-star game programs.
The organization also said the ad is part of its "Americanism program," in which it conducts seminars for schools and youth groups to teach proper ways to display care for and respect the American flag.