Two organizations, the Veterans of Foreign Wars and The American Legion, are openly criticizing National Football League (NFL) players for protesting the American flag by kneeling during the national anthem.
NFL players making use of sports events to disrespect the American flag is unacceptable, VFW’s national commander Keith Harman, a Vietnam combat veteran, said in a statement Monday.
A total of 28 NFL teams, which include approximately 250 players, engaged in protests during flag ceremonies, following tweets from President Donald Trump on Saturday blasting players who have chosen not to stand for the national anthem.
“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.
He praised former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, offensive tackle for the Pittsburgh Steelers, for taking to the field on Sunday while the rest of the Steelers’ team stayed behind in the locker during the ceremonies. Before signing up with the NFL in 2014, Villanueva served three tours of duty in Afghanistan.
American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan joined VFW in attacking the NFL players who knelt during the national anthem as “misguided and ungrateful.”
“The American Legion is one of the original architects of the U.S. Flag Code,” Rohan said. “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,” Rohan added.