Things Are About to Get Even Worse for the NFL, When This Ad Runs on

Sports site reverses course, accepts hard-hitting spot

Sports Illustrated has reversed its call and will run an NFL-themed domestic violence ad from advocacy group Ultraviolet on its website Thursday, three days before the Super Bowl.

The 15-second video shows a football player in full gear brutally tackling a young woman wearing street clothes and a knitted cap. "Let's take domestic violence out of football," a voiceover says. On-screen text refers to "55 NFL abuse cases unanswered," and the ad closes with the hashtag, #GoodellMustGo, a swipe at league commissioner Roger Goodell.

Ultraviolet flew banners with that hashtag above the recent AFC and NFC championship games, as it had at various NFL contests this season during the Ray Rice controversy.

Last week, SI rejected Ultraviolet's advertising—which includes an online banner as well as the video—but upon further review, and following inquiries from other media, gave the OK, calling its initial refusal a "misunderstanding." (Apparently, SI initially evaluated just the banner, which it felt could be misconstrued as editorial content. The banner and video together, however, were subsequently deemed acceptable.)

"We are thrilled that public scrutiny has persuaded Sports Illustrated to reverse their decision," says Ultraviolet founder Nita Chaudhary. "We cannot allow the issue of domestic violence to be swept under the rug."

Ultimately, the SI drama generates extra exposure for Ultraviolet's edgy play and further deflates the NFL on the eve of the Big Game.

@DaveGian David Gianatasio is a longtime contributor to Adweek, where he has been a writer and editor for two decades. Previously serving as Adweek's New England bureau chief and web editor, he remains based in Boston.