Dodge Ram tried to use a Martin Luther King Jr. speech to sell trucks in a Super Bowl advertisement on Sunday.
The minute-long ad features a clip of King’s “Drum Major Instinct” sermon, which he delivered 50 years ago on Feb. 4, 1968. The audio plays over dramatic shots of athletes training, soldiers reuniting with families and kids learning in classrooms.
“If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful,” King’s voice says. “But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness.”
Just after the words “a new definition of greatness,” a Dodge Ram truck comes coursing through mud and water in loving slo-mo, and it becomes clear what this video is actually about.
The ad ends with a still that reads, “Built to serve: Ram.”
People were, understandably, not very happy with Dodge’s attempt to profit off of one of history’s greatest social justice advocates.
“So that means the King children allowed Dr. King’s voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck,” author Michael Arceneaux tweeted.
Bernice King, Martin Luther King’s youngest daughter, replied simply: “No.”
Viewers pointed to the irony of the NFL co-signing an ad that tries to monetize King’s activism while shutting out Colin Kaepernick and his protests of police brutality and systemic racism.
“Black people cant kneel and play football but MLK should be used to sell trucks during the super bowl,” writer and comedian Akilah Hughes tweeted. “Unbelievable.”
Actor John Cusack also expressed his disappointment, tweeting: “Mlk who died striking with workers decrying militarism & imperial war makers ― used to [sell] shiny trucks with marching soldiers ― corporate America nbc nfl should be ashamed.”
Below are some more reactions to Dodge’s ad.
So that means the King children allowed Dr. King’s voice to be used to sell me a Dodge truck. pic.twitter.com/RRoRAbsvCH
– Michael Arceneaux (@youngsinick) February 5, 2018
MLK wanted equal rights and for me to buy a Dodge Ram #SuperBowl
– Ja’han Jones (@_Jahan) February 5, 2018
Behind the scenes shot of the marketing meeting where they approved the MLK Dodge Ram commercial. #SuperBowl pic.twitter.com/MEr9d3WJUF
– Nick Jack Pappas (@Pappiness) February 5, 2018
Me after that MLK Dodge Ram commercial pic.twitter.com/3TEVZgtvaZ
– Kameron Bonaparte (@KillaKam1947) February 5, 2018
The King family has vehemently defended MLK’s likeness, voice, speeches, etc. FOR DECADES. To hear him now… on an ad… to sell… trucks…. is unsettling.
– April (@ReignOfApril) February 5, 2018
Ok that was weird, and not in a good way, hearing MLK’s words used to sell products … #SuperBowlAds
– Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) February 5, 2018
Don’t use MLK to sell fucking trucks.That ad turned my stomach @Dodge
– Oliver Willis (@owillis) February 5, 2018
“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism” – Real MLK Jr, 3/3/1967
Buy Dodge trucks – Fake MLK Jr, 2/4/2018
– Judd Legum (@JuddLegum) February 5, 2018
– ViktoriA ☆ (@Happygirlio) February 5, 2018