Ram Trucks borrowed parts of a speech from Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in their latest ad which premiered during Sunday’s Super Bowl LI. Despite the backlash the commercial invited, the manager of the King estate defended the questionable promo.


In the ad by the Fiat Chrysler Automobiles brand, a 50-year-old speech by the late civil rights icon is played as actors depict themselves performing acts of service. While the concept of connecting the civil rights leader to car promotion is intrinsically strange in and of itself, the internet wasn’t too happy with the disrespectful irony of it all. The company claims the King Estate approved of the commercial.

King’s “Drum Major Instinct” speech contains contains an anti-capitalist message. The first half of the speech about servicing one’s community. The second-half is a blatant condemnation of capitalism:

If you want to be important, wonderful. If you want to be recognized, wonderful. If you want to be great, wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s a new definition of greatness. … By giving that definition of greatness, it means that everybody can be great. … You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know the theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love.

The Drum Major Institute, a nonprofit organization which was founded by King in 1966, slammed the use of King’s words in the commercial Sunday night. As did The Martin Luther King, Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change, founded by King’s wife Coretta Scott King in 1968:

But Eric D. Tidwell who serves as managing director of Intellectual Properties Management, which oversees the King estate said the commercial is nothing but respectful to King’s legacy.
“Once the final creative was presented for approval, it was reviewed to ensure it met our standard integrity clearances,” Tidwell said according to New York Magazine. “We found that the overall message of the ad embodied Dr. King’s philosophy that true greatness is achieved by serving others.”
But just like the organizations which (respectfully) honor King’s legacy, Twitter was none too pleased — and confused: