Critics Bash Ram for Using MLK Voice During Commercial…King Estate Silences Them

Super Bowl ad for Dodge Ram trucks that included a voice-over from civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. received widespread criticism from the public for its alleged exploitation of MLK’s legacy. However, at least one segment of King’s family seems to support it.

That segment includes the MLK Estate, which the Chicago Tribune noted had to approve the ad before it could be aired:

“As caretakers of their father’s estate, Dexter King and Martin Luther King III had to clear the way for the executor to give Ram the go-ahead to use excerpts from their father’s little known sermon, ‘The Drum Major Instinct.'”

While it remains unclear if Dexter and MLK III personally authorized the ad, the Estate did issue a statement to Slate in defense of its decision to approve it.

“When Ram approached the King Estate with the idea of featuring Dr. King’s voice in a new ‘Built To Serve’ commercial, we were pleasantly surprised at the existence of the Ram Nation volunteers and their efforts,” said Eric D. Tidwell, the managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, Inc., which is the “exclusive licensor” of the MLK’s Estate.

Established in 2015, “Ram Nation is a grassroots volunteer corps of Ram owners and like-minded people willing and ready to come together to haul supplies, deliver equipment, clear debris, distribute food and water and even make donations that help people in their communities and around the world,” according to a news briefing from that year.

Continuing his statement, Tidwell noted that “the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others. Thus we decided to be a part of Ram’s ‘Built To Serve’ Super Bowl program.”

Writing for The Daily Wire, conservative commentator Ben Shapiro seemed to agree with this line of thinking, pointing out that the “message of the ad is that meaningful lives are those led helping others, and that a Dodge Ram might be able to help you do that. Is that really so terrible?”

I agree with Shapiro, but our voices represent only a few. Many people, including some members of MLK’s own family, appear to disagree strongly.

In fact, both the King Center, a non-profit reportedly established by MLK’s wife, Coretta Scott King, and Bernice King, MLK’s daughter, have made it clear they do not approve of 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 center tweeted during the game.

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Many media pundits and contributors responded similarly:

Are they right, or are they making a big stink over nothing, especially given the ad’s purpose to promote volunteerism? You tell me.

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