Jim and Marian Wetzel of Richland didn’t need to be asked what led them to the Oct. 1 kickoff of the I Pledge Challenge — they volunteered their outrage.
“You won’t be able to print that,” Jim Wetzel, 77, said of his thoughts when he heard CBS Sports Network had rejected Windermere Real Estate Kennewick’s TV commercial featuring a 4-year-old girl reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.
“There’s no reason on God’s green Earth that any American would deny that to be shown,” Jim said.
“And be honored to use it,” Marian, 79, added.
The Wetzels were among 200 people who recited the pledge three times (so the different versions could later be edited together) at Kennewick’s 9/11 Memorial in the shadow of the steel beams recovered from the World Trade Center site.
They were filmed by several cameras, including one perched overhead in a cherry picker, as part of what organizers hope will take off similar to the recent ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, which raised more than $100 million. Each participant is asked to share video of themselves reciting the pledge on social media, and then challenge three others to do the same.
“The Ice Bucket Challenge was so wildly popular; why can’t we challenge people to do the same thing with the Pledge of Allegiance?” said Michelle Turner of PS Media, which produced the pledge advertisement for Windermere.
The brief event opened with Janine Stange, known as the National Anthem Girl, singing The Star-Spangled Banner.
Several community members raised money to book Stange, who has performed the anthem in all 50 states, on national TV, and at sporting events and concerts, Turner said.
Stange also is scheduled to recite the pledge with the girl from the Windermere commercial, who is the granddaughter of one of its owners, Dave Retter, at the “Bring Home a Hero” event Oct. 18 in Ellensburg.
That event is a fundraiser for the San D. Francisco Awareness Campaign, which seeks to return the remains of a Burbank man killed in 1968 in Vietnam.
The commercial started a national controversy after CBS Sports Network declined to air it during the network’s broadcast of the Wrangler Champions Challenge Rodeo, citing its “political nature.”
A spokeswoman for CBS Sports later said the network rejected the advertisement because it doesn’t air local commercials on national broadcasts.
Video of Wednesday’s I Pledge Challenge event will be posted on the campaign’s website (www.ipledgechallenge.org) and social media.
Participants also are asked to make donations to one of seven veterans-related organizations.
Retter worked with PS Media on setting up the I Pledge Challenge, said Skip Novakovich, president of the Columbia Basin Veterans Coalition, one of the organizations that might benefit from the campaign.
“It’s a way to raise awareness of veterans and instill patriotism,” Novakovich said. “Anytime people can get together and say the pledge, it makes them realize they live in this country and appreciate being in this country.”
-- Geoff Folsom: 509-582-1543; email@example.com; Twitter: @GeoffFolsom