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NBC has pulled an infamous “migrant caravan” ad that ran during Sunday Night Football. The ad featured an undocumented immigrant who was convicted of murdering two sheriff’s deputies in California in 2014. Until Sunday night, the ad ran mostly on the internet. CNN had rejected it as well, labeling it “racist.”
“After further review, we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible,” said an NBC spokesperson.
In fact, the NFL — in particular the league’s media committee — tightly controls the type of ads that can appear during broadcasts of NFL games. It expressly prohibits “social cause/issue advocacy advertising” unless approved in advance, according to circulated NFL advertising standards. New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft chairs the media committee. Kraft donated $1 million to Trump’s 2016 inaugural committee and has been a guest of the president at Mar-a-Lago.
The league also prohibits advertising for guns, contraceptives, fireworks, cannabis, “male enhancement” products and “energy drinks.” An NFL spokesperson declined comment when contacted by The Hollywood Reporter on Monday morning. Several hours later, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy released a statement denying involvement.
“The NFL played no role in the airing of the spot last night,” the statement said. “The NFL has no approval rights regarding campaign ads. That falls to the network that is selling the advertising and airing the game.”
McCarthy did not respond to follow-up inquiries about whether the NFL’s advertising policies have changed.
An NBC spokesperson did not respond to repeated requests for further comment. A representative for the NFL Players Association also declined comment.
Fox News, which had been running the spot, also announced that it would pull it. “Upon further review, FOX News pulled the ad yesterday and it will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” ad sales president Marianne Gambelli said Monday in a statement.
Facebook had also pulled the ad with a spokesperson explaining, “This ad violates Facebook’s advertising policy against sensational content so we are rejecting it. While the video is allowed to be posted on Facebook, it cannot receive paid distribution.”
CNN rejected the ad outright. And after Donald Trump Jr. complained Saturday in a tweet, a CNN spokesperson responded: “CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist. When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined. Those are the facts.”
The ad also ran on NBCUniversal’s MSNBC, including during Monday’s installment of Morning Joe. Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that the ad was not submitted to ABC or CBS.
The ad that ran on NBC, which encourages viewers to “vote Republican” in the Nov. 6 midterms, did not include a line that blamed “Democrats” for letting the undocumented man into the country and for allowing him to stay. In fact, according to The Washington Post, the man entered the country during the presidential administrations of both Republicans and Democrats, and appears to have last crossed the border during the administration of George W. Bush. He also was apparently arrested on drug charges in Phoenix but was released by former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, an ardent Trump supporter.
The famously controversy-averse NFL has been mired in it since a wave of anthem protests, kicked off by former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, exacerbated tensions between the league owners (many of whom are politically conservative) and a large contingent of players, many of whom are African-American. President Trump has used the kneeling players in his ongoing culture war, hurling obscenities at them and calling for them to be fired if they do not stand for the national anthem.
Such rhetoric has come under intense scrutiny after 11 people were murdered at a Jewish synagogue in Pittsburgh and a flurry of pipe bombs were mailed to prominent Democrats and CNN.
Nov. 5, 6:13 p.m. Updated with statement from the NFL.
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