The Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial is seen on the morning of Martin Luther King Jr. Day in Washington, DC on January 15. On Sunday, a Dodge Ram Super Bowl commercial contained one of King's speeches, drawing criticism from viewers. Photo by Erin Schaff/UPI | License Photo
Feb. 5 (UPI) -- A Dodge Ram Super Bowl commercial used an excerpt from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s final speech before his death and was immediately criticized on social media - but Dodge said it had approval of the King estate.
The commercial, titled Built to Serve, puts a recording of King giving his Drum Major Instinct sermon, which was delivered on Feb. 4, 1968 -- exactly 50 years before Sunday's Super Bowl -- over images of Americans working hard and driving Dodge Rams.
"If you want to be important - wonderful. If you want to be recognized -wonderful," King says in the speech featured in the commercial. "If you want to be great - wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That's a new definition of greatness. And this morning, the thing that I like about it: by giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. You don't have to have a college degree to serve. You don't have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don't have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don't have to know Einstein's theory of relativity to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant."
Vox pointed out that King's speech was, in part, a critique of capitalist consumer culture, which made it an odd fit for a commercial selling $45,000 trucks.
On Twitter, many people said they were disappointed with the ad, especially during Black History Month.
But Dodge defended its Super Bowl spot, which the company said had approval of King's estate.
"We worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals and estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process every step of the way," the company said in a statement, according to Ad Age.
King's estate is handled by International Properties Management, an Atlanta-based company founded by Dexter King, one of King's sons.
The King Center, which was founded by King's late wife, Coretta Scott King, said it had nothing to do with the commercial.