A Republican candidate for governor said Thursday he is boycotting the NFL as another controversy envelops the league only days before Super Bowl LII.
"The over-paid crybabies kneeling during our national anthem no longer deserve my patronage,” said state Sen. Michael Williams. “Without the support of viewers, most of them would be nobodys that couldn't qualify to be garbage men."
League officials are facing criticism after rejecting an ad that would have been featured inside its Super Bowl program. The ad was sponsored by AMVETS, a non-profit veterans group, and featured the message, #PleaseStand.
The ad was designed in the wake of the season-long controversy over whether the league and team owners should require players to stand during the national anthem, a protest that began in 2017 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick.
On Jan. 21, the NFL rejected the ad, saying the Super Bowl “is designed for fans to commemorate and celebrate the game, players, teams and the Super Bowl. It’s never been a place for advertising that could be considered by some as a political statement.”
"Our message has always been patriotic and polite," said AMVETS Executive Director Joe Chenelly. "It simply requests people choose to stand during the National Anthem. It neither judges, vilifies or even opposes those who choose otherwise.
"We’re simply asking that people choose standing, and the NFL has made it harshly clear that it does not want veterans delivering this message anywhere near its biggest game."
"After watching the disgraceful 'kneeling' antics of players during the national anthem and the lack of a policy to combat this, and now the banning of an ad from a veterans organization, I am officially done with the NFL,” Williams said. “When a simple ad from American Veterans association with the phrase, '#PleaseStand' is too controversial for the NFL, they have become too controversial for me.
“They have no issue airing left-leaning political ads, but ads related to our veterans and 2nd amendment rights are banned,” he added.
Williams’ comments came the day that his colleagues in the state Senate adopted a resolution denouncing the NFL for rejecting the AMVETS’ ad.
"I was skeptical when NFL officials tried to justify the organized disrespect for our flag by citing free speech,” said state Sen. David Shafer (R-Duluth), the resolution’s sponsor. “But their shabby treatment of AMVETS exposes the hypocrisy of that excuse. When America’s veterans try to exercise their free speech, the NFL has no problem telling them to sit down and shut up.”
Williams is seeking the GOP gubernatorial nomination along with at least two other higher-profile candidates in Lt. Gov. Casey Cagle and Secretary of State Brian Kemp. Shafer is running for lieutenant governor along with two former Republican state legislators, among others.
Atlanta and the new Mercedes-Benz Stadium will host the 2019 Super Bowl.
Super Bowl LII will air Sunday, Feb. 4, from Minneapolis on 11Alive at 6:30 p.m. EST.