The National Anthem protests at NFL games during the last two seasons have polarized football fans. Earlier this week, an advertisement honoring the U.S. flag and the anthem was rejected. Backlash was swift and unforgiving. Now, the NFL has announced a very patriotic move, and one that the league hopes will ease some tensions.
The National Football League announced Thursday it will feature Medal of Honor recipients in next month’s Super Bowl.
“Hershel “Woody” Williams, 94, who fought in the Battle of Iwo Jima during World War II, and other Medal of Honor recipients will participate in the coin toss ceremony prior to the Feb. 4 game between the Philadelphia Eagles and New England Patriots in Minneapolis,” Fox writes.
“The NFL is proud to honor our Nation’s heroes at Super Bowl LII,” NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted. “These courageous individuals deserve to be recognized on America’s biggest stage. We are grateful for their service to our country and we are pleased to continue the NFL’s longstanding tradition of hosting special tributes to service members at the Super Bowl.”
Goodell’s acknowledgement that the Superbowl is “America’s biggest stage” is significant. The league has seen declining ratings ever since the national anthem protests took the spotlight on the NFL stage, and this patriotic move is clearly designed to help balance out those sentiments.
While Goodell has not said how long the league has been planning this opening for the game, the timing looks calculated. Earlier in the week, news broke about an ad that had been turned down. The full-page ad for the official Super Bowl LII program, Stars and Stripes featured an American flag and American soldiers and asked spectators to “Please Stand” for the Anthem.
The NFL rejected the ad on the premise that the Super Bowl shouldn’t be political. AMVETs claimed the rejection amounted to “corporate censorship.”
The move to honor the American heroes seems to be an overt attempt to walk back the earlier rejection.
The15 Medal of Honor recipients participating in the coin toss:
Bennie Adkins: Army, Vietnam (award delayed 9/15/2014)
Don Ballard: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/14/1970)
Sammy Davis: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/18/1967)
Roger Donlon: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/5/1964)
Sal Giunta: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/16/2010)
Flo Groberg: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 11/12/2015)
Tom Kelley: Navy, Vietnam (awarded 5/17/1969)
Allan Kellogg: Marines, Vietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
Gary Littrell: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/15/1973)
Walter Marm: Army, Vietnam (awarded 12/19/1966)
Robert Patterson: Army, Vietnam (awarded 10/10/1969)
Leroy Petry: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 7/12/2011)
Clint Romesha: Army, Afghanistan (awarded 2/11/2013)
James Taylor: Army, Vietnam (awarded 11/19/1968)
Woody Williams: Marines, WWII (awarded 10/5/1945)