Two of the United States’ largest veterans organizations released statements saying that the national anthem protests going on in the NFL are “disrespectful” to the United States and the American flag.
Top officials from the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and the American Legion pushed back against the hundreds of NFL players who protested during the national anthem and during pre-game flag ceremonies following President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday attacking players who do not stand for the national anthem.
Keith Harman, the national commander of the VFW and a Vietnam veteran, blasted the players who protested.
“There is a time and place for civil debate, and wearing team jerseys and using sporting events to disrespect our country doesn’t wash with millions of military veterans who have and continue to wear real uniforms on real battlefields around the globe,” Harman said in a statement.
“My oath to protect the Constitution also protects my right to vehemently disagree with how others may choose to air their grievances,” Harman said.
“I stand for our flag and anthem,” he added, “and I kneel for our fallen. That’s what patriots do. We rally around the flag of our country, not use it and our Constitution as both shield and sword.”
The American Legion released a statement, echoing the VFW’s statement, calling those players who knelt or opted out of the national anthem as “misguided and ungrateful.”
American Legion Commadner Denise Rohan said:
“The American Legion is one of the original architects of the U.S. Flag Code. That code was produced by 69 patriotic, fraternal civic and military organizations in 1923. It included members of all political parties, big labor, industry and minorities. The code calls on all present to stand at attention while the anthem is played. It wasn’t political when it was written and it shouldn’t be political today. Having a right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do. We salute Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone respecting the flag as his teammates stayed in their locker room. NASCAR also deserves credit for their support of our anthem. There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one UNITED States of America.”
On Sunday, former Army Ranger and current offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers Alejandro Villanueva took to the field while the national anthem was being played, while the rest of the team was still in the tunnel.
Villanueva has since apologized in a statement, saying the incident was a “mistake” because he never intended on standing alone and he never intended to make his his coach and teammates look bad.
On Friday at an Alabama rally, President Trump called on NFL owners to fire players who protested during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects out flag, to say ‘Get that son of a b–ch off the field right now, out, he’s fired,” Trump told the crowd.
The President also tweeted: “If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”
On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders defended Trump’s statements.
“I think that it’s always appropriate for the president of the United States to defend our flag, to defend our national anthem,” she said.