ATLANTA — The debate over whether the NFL should let players kneel during the national anthem flared up in state government this week as some legislators and a governor disparaged the league.
Georgia senators unanimously passed a resolution Thursday denouncing the NFL for allowing players to kneel but not letting a veterans group advertise in the printed game program for the Super Bowl. 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.”
The on-the-field protests started by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick have waned this season but the controversy hasn’t. President Donald Trump alluded to his public spat with the NFL in his State of the Union speech Tuesday, saying that paying tribute to the flag is a “civic duty.”
The resolution in Georgia, introduced by Republican Sen. David Shafer, who is running for lieutenant governor, called the league hypocritical for allowing players to kneel but not allowing an ad from the veterans group AMVETS.
“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.
NFL spokesman Brian McCarthy said the game program has never been a place for advertising what some might consider to be 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 said.
The words “Please Stand” figured prominently in the ad, and McCarthy said AMVETS declined to consider alternatives, such as “Please Stand for our Veterans.” He said the NFL did approve a Veterans of Foreign Wars ad saying “We Stand for Veterans.”
Georgia’s Senate minority leader, Democrat Steve Henson, accused his Republican colleagues of slipping the resolution through in a deceptive manner. “Many members of the body had concerns about this issue and how it was rushed to a vote without notice,” Henson said.
In Tennessee, Republican Rep. Diane Black will run an ad during the Super Bowl pregame show in response to the NFL’s rejection for AMVETS’ ad.
Associated Press writer Jonathan Mattise in Nashville, Tennessee, contributed to this report.
Information from: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, http://www.ajc.com