NFL Draws the Line on Guns and Super Bowl Ads

Kavitha A. Davidson is a former Bloomberg View columnist.
Read More.
a | A

The National Football League has made a new enemy of conservative pundits after its decision not to allow a pro-gun ad to air during the Super Bowl. The commercial for Daniel Defense, a gun shop specializing in assault rifles, depicts a soldier whose primary goal since returning home is protecting his family -- and his Second Amendment rights.

The one-minute spot violates the NFL's advertising policy, which prohibits both "social cause/issue advocacy" and anything promoting firearms, ammunition or other weapons. The policy includes an exception for establishments that sell guns, such as camping stores, provided that the store primarily sells other items and weapons aren't mentioned in the ad. Although Daniel Defense CEO Marty Daniel told "Fox and Friends" that his company specifically designed the ad to comply with these guidelines, noting that his store also sells "outdoor gear," a cursory glance at its website reveals that such gear consists of a few T-shirts with the company's assault rifle logo and a $99 pocketknife.

The NFL has yet to comment publicly on its decision regarding the ad, but it could have something to do with the line in which the soldier defiantly states, "No one has the right to tell me how to defend" his family. That sure sounds a lot like "issue advocacy."

But why does the NFL have this policy in the first place? Take a look at some of the ads approved in the past. From a nearly naked David Beckham to countless ads for bloody movies and video games, sex and violence pervade the NFL's airways -- not that there's anything wrong with that. (Frankly, I find the grotesque sexism of basically every GoDaddy ad ever far more objectionable.) Perhaps that's the reason the Daniel Defense ad was banned: Compared with the high bar we place on Super Bowl ads, it's just plain boring.

Before conservatives go crying foul on that great bastion of liberalism that is the NFL, let's remember that back in 2010, the league allowed CBS to air a controversial pro-life ad featuring Tim Tebow during the Super Bowl, despite protests by women's rights groups and Planned Parenthood. If there is a coordinated effort to use football to further a singular political agenda, I fail to see what that is.

Regardless, a predictably outraged Michelle Malkin is calling for her similarly outraged readers to stand up for their right to bear arms by ceasing to watch NFL games. That'll teach 'em! The league has yet to see any tangible, negative reaction to its concussion scandal, at least as far as ratings and revenue go, but maybe its response to an uninteresting pro-gun ad is exactly what's needed to break football's hold on the American public.

This column does not necessarily reflect the opinion of Bloomberg View's editorial board or Bloomberg LP, its owners and investors.

To contact the author on this story:
Kavitha A Davidson at