Despite the National Football League (NFL) “restricting” cannabis advertisements during the Super Bowl and all related NFL broadcasts, one of marijuana’s apostles, Willie Nelson, has found a way to push for policy change…in the form of comfort. The singer starred in a lighthearted commercial for Skechers advocating legalizing the simple pleasure of comfort.
In the commercial, Skechers avoids all mention of cannabis but does not try to be subtle that viewers should be reading into the ad. In it, Nelson–wearing a shirt that says “Legalize” in bold letters– says he’s been advocating for years for the legalization of “the one thing that can bring comfort to millions: Skechers.” He also goes on to say, “You know, Skechers should be legal.” When an off-camera director interrupts to say, “I don’t think Skechers are illegal anywhere.” Nelson responds by saying, “But to feel so good, I just assumed The Man made them illegal,” leaving little doubt about the underlying message.
In a press statement, Nelson continued to reference the double meaning, saying, “I can’t resist making an appearance during the Super Bowl. And I’m doing this because of a message we can all agree on—everyone deserves the right to feel comfortable. From the bus to the stage to a jog around the ranch, staying healthy and feeling good is how I can keep doing what I love.” Implications aside, Skechers President Michael Greenberg believes he is a good advocate for the shoes. At almost 90 years old, Nelson is still performing, touring, and active. As a man who has a pair of running shoes displayed at the Country Music Hall of Fame, there is little doubt Nelson loves a comfortable sneaker, maybe almost as much as he loves his green.
Despite the lighthearted tone of the ad, it is an essential commentary on marijuana censorship. The Super Bowl took place in adult-use California, and the data shows many Super Bowl viewers partake. Snoop Dogg, another musical cannabis icon, also performed at the halftime show. Seemingly culture, location, and support from viewers would make this the Super Bowl to allow ads referencing marijuana. Viewers saw ads for cryptocurrencies, hard alcohol, and sports betting, yet marijuana is the substance targeted for restriction. The NFL cited that illegality at the federal level is the reason for the ad censorship. While people can view the Super Bowl from every state–including those where cannabis is illegal–the NFL is not a federal entity each year. This may give marijuana businesses room to hope for promotion in the future. It is not inconceivable to expect to see commercials for marijuana supplies in later Super Bowl ad spaces.
Until the NFL lifts the cannabis ad restriction, ads like Skechers will continue to be a not-so-subtle push for cannabis reform. When they do, celebrities with solid backgrounds of marijuana activism, like Nelson, are perfect for pushing across the critical message to legalize cannabis–sorry…comfort.