Just how controversial is Dodge Ram's MLK Super Bowl ad?

Dodge Ram has drawn the ire of social media after using audio clips of a Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. speech in a commercial that ran during Super Bowl LII.

Martin Luther King, Jr. arrives at a London airport. Photo: J. Wilds/Getty
Martin Luther King, Jr. arrives at a London airport. Photo: J. Wilds/Getty

A Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram trucks has sparked controversy for using audio from a sermon delivered by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Both social media and those directly tied to King’s legacy can’t quite agree on what to make of the ad, which received approval from King’s estate.

The minute-long commercial features audio excerpts from King’s “The Drum Major Instinct” sermon and begins by noting that the civil rights leader gave the sermon 50 years ago to the day. The ad then shows scenes of Americans plugging away at various jobs: firemen rescuing a dog, an engaged teacher writing on a chalkboard, soldiers marching in formation, and one scene where a Dodge Ram truck drives down a small town street carrying a church, honest to God.

In the sermon, King warns against man’s need to feel superior—or against the drum major’s “desire to be out front, a desire to lead the parade.” He argues that people should instead harness that natural instinct “to be first in love, to be first in moral excellence and to be first in generosity.” It was the last sermon King gave before his assassination.

Dodge Ram thought its ad was in step with King’s message. 

“In the spirit of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Ram truck owners also believe in a life of serving others,” reads the video description on the Ram Trucks YouTube page. A representative for the truck manufacturer told April Glaser at Slate that the brand “worked closely with the representatives of the Martin Luther King Jr. estate to receive the necessary approvals,” adding that “estate representatives were a very important part of the creative process.”

Still, not everyone directly affiliated with King’s legacy seemed eager to be associated with the ad.

Neither @TheKingCenter nor @BerniceKing is the entity that approves the use of #MLK’s words or imagery for use in merchandise, entertainment (movies, music, artwork, etc) or advertisement, including tonight’s @Dodge #SuperBowl commercial.

— The King Center (@TheKingCenter) February 5, 2018



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