A retired Navy commander declined to accept an award at a New Orleans Saints game over the national anthem protests occurring in the NFL, and the Saints have fired back at him over the decision.
Retired Navy Cmdr. John Wells, the executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy, was expected to be honored with the Peoples Health Champion award during last week’s game in New Orleans against the Chicago Bears, but instead did not accept the reward, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
“Although I am touched and honored to be selected for such an award, the ongoing controversy with NFL players’ disrespect for the national flag forces me to decline to participate in the presentation,” Wells said in a statement. “I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails. Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”
“Their failure to act is a slap in the face to all of those who have served in uniform,” Wells continued. “Men and women have fought and died for the flag that the players are disrespecting.”
Wells is a disabled Navy veteran who served from 1972 to 1994, and later became an attorney specializing in military and veterans law, the New Orleans Times-Picayune reported.
The New Orleans Saints fired back at Wells for his decision to decline the award.
“Respectfully and honorably, we chose Mr. Wells for the Peoples Health Champion Award purposefully for this game to bring to light the exact issues that he and his organization represent – the health and well being of our military, veterans and their families,” the Saints wrote in a statement. “Unfortunately, he has chosen very publicly not to accept this honor and refused the opportunity to promote the very cause for which he was being honored and distract from awareness we hoped to build throughout our community. We respect his decision, he has that right, and we thank him for his service to our country and his past efforts on behalf of the military and veterans.”
“Throughout Mr. Wells’ media appearances today, he has stated he no longer supports NFL football. That is unfortunate and disappointing, considering the New Orleans Saints’ unwavering 50-plus-year commitment to honor, support and recognize our servicemen and women and veterans,” the statement continued. “We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans. In lieu of honoring Mr. Wells, we will use the time allotted for the Peoples Health Champion Award to highlight non-political military advocacy programs and encourage our fans and community to join us in contributing to these groups who directly support our military and veterans.”
The organization pointed out that since 1967, the team has stood for the national anthem except for when several players decided to kneel for the anthem during their Week 3 game against the Carolina Panthers. They said they have been involved in the military community, and support veterans and their families.
Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan wondered why people “continue to ignore” why NFL protesters are protesting.