Veterans and the NFL: Thoughts on kneeling

American Legion members voted last week to stop airing NFL games at Post 118 in Amherst.

The move was a response to players who have knelt during the National Anthem in protest against shootings of black suspects by white police officers.

We asked Facebook readers what they think of the local veterans’ decision. Here is a selection of answers, edited for grammar, news style, and in some cases length:

Michael A. Figueroa

“I find it ironic that a bunch of vets who at one time swore to support and defend the Constitution are now offended that people are exercising the very rights that are provided within it. I have a feeling that if the shoe was on the other foot they themselves would be protesting as well. Remember, this country’s beginning is grounded in protest and it is one of our most important and fundamental rights as free citizens. Don’t denounce it; instead, support it and encourage it. You don’t have to agree with the protester. I’m a Marine Desert Storm veteran and I fully support them and the message that they are trying to convey.”

Kellie Hall

“Support them 100 percent. NFL players are performers. They’re being paid to perform, not to pout about their feelings. They should consider counseling if it’s bothering them so bad, not disrespecting the flag, our military, the ones we’ve lost to war, or the ones keeping their stadium safe while they pout.”

Pete Kamoutsis

“Horrible decision. Let’s send our men and women to other countries to fight for other people to have the right to free speech, but try to suppress Americans’ rights to do the same. It’s not about the flag (FYI, flags don’t have feelings) or the military. Boycott cities that allow Nazi scum to wave the swastika around.”

Christine Burman

“As a member of 118, it is the disrespect to the flag and anthem. Kneel before, or after, but not during. We are here for “God and Country!”

Matt Koperdak

“It’s a terrible decision. It reinforces the mistaken belief that the players are protesting the military and the flag, when in reality they’re forcing our attention to the issues of inequality and injustice that plague us. It’s their organization to do what they wish, but at the same time I wish they’d realize the players have that same right to protest.”

Larry Reihner

“I think every TV should be turned off and every stadium be emptied. Everyone walk away from the NFL. Don’t buy products and merchandise that supports the NFL. It’s just a game being played by a bunch of overpaid crybabies. They aren’t protesting. Most of us can’t do the same thing while we are at work. Walk away from the NFL. Bankrupt them. I won’t watch it again. It’s been ruined. They should be protesting the 35 shootings and five killings in Chicago that happened over the weekend. It’s a no wonder why police have their hands on their trigger. Our streets are being taken over by a bunch of thugs.”

Robert Savina

“I’m a veteran and love my hometown of Amherst. I hope, however, there never comes a time when we can’t protest in this country and have to believe the same things everyone else believes in without fear of imprisonment persecution or death — say like, in Russia, North Korea, or China. All of us have a right to peaceful protest including the American Legion and the NFL. It doesn’t matter if you have a multi-million dollar contract to play football or you’re watching the football game on a bar stool. The flag means nothing without that inalienable right ( definition: unable to be taken away from or given away by the possessor).”

Shelly Fouch

“As veterans, we have all stood, fought, and protected American rights. And as veterans, we all know there is an order to everything, a time and place for everything. If they want to kneel, they can take a different platform, become activists for their cause, not a platform of fun, enjoyment, and tradition. If the Legion is founded for veterans, they had better stand, fight, and protect the veterans. Good call.”

Tim Kneisel

“As a veteran myself, I support the players who kneel. I know they aren’t protesting the flag or vets, they are trying to bring attention to the systemic racism still prevalent in our country. I fought to defend their rights, not a flag or a song.”

Josh Hall

“The kneeling is a complete slap in the face to our vets and I support the American Legion for their decision.”

Kris Perch

“Kneeling during the National Anthem has nothing to do with veterans or the flag. It is about institutional racism and the ceaseless murder of unarmed folks at the hands of police. If veterans really believe they fought to ‘defend freedom,’ why do they get bent out of shape when people peacefully exercise those freedoms?”

Arlene Jaroscak

“I respect freedom of speech and the right to peaceful protest, but not while on duty at your job! The NFL players need to protest on their ‘off time’ like the rest of the USA. The NFL shouldn’t be given special privileges just because they are paid, professional athletes. Effective, peaceful protests can lead to positive change through public awareness and education. ‘Taking a knee’ in the NFL started 13 months ago. Has it been effective? How much more effective could it have been had they not offended so many patriots and veterans who served their country? Shouldn’t they re-evaluate their approach to help their cause that they are so passionate about? The American Legion Post 118 in Amherst has every right to boycott the NFL and the sponsors of the NFL if they choose to do so. This is their right as afforded under the Constitution. They, like many veterans and Americans, are offended by the NFL’s method of protest, not by the cause they are protesting.”

Kelly Sand

“They should remain neutral and stay out of politics. They all pay the same dues and the club belongs to all veteran members of all beliefs. No one should feel alienated by others political beliefs, or have them forced on them.”

John Kocak

“I am the commander of the post and I am not in favor of the ban on the NFL. I let the membership know of my feelings. I feel that I served my country to give them the right to free speech and to protest. This is not the feeling of the whole post but the feeling of the few that were in the meeting. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t condone what they do but they do have that right. They are getting people to talk about their issues and I guess it is working for them. It only hurts the post. Sunday there were three cars in the Legion’s parking lot, there were 12 in the VFW’s and the Eagles were packed. So no winners here on Sundays. I stand proud for my flag, but if they choose not to that is their problem, not mine!”

Tina Shand

“Kudos to the membership for taking a stand. It truly represents the very reason for their existence. They have shown that their country is more important than the NFL. I understand the commander’s feelings but the membership voted and should be supported. I don’t have a stake in the club but I do admire that they cared enough to take a vote.”

Marsha Pataky

“I’m a veteran and I actually took an oath to uphold the Constitution of which the players are exercising their First Amendment rights that every veteran fought for! They are the true patriots exercising their rights!”