by WorldTribune Staff, September 26, 2017
Football players kneeling during the national anthem “doesn’t wash” with millions of U.S. military veterans, the commander of Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) said on Sept. 25.
“I stand for our flag and anthem,” Keith Harman, a Vietnam combat veteran, said. “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.”
More than 250 players across 28 NFL teams took part in protests on Sept. 24 surrounding pre-game flag ceremonies and the singing of 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.
“My oath to protect the Constitution also protects my right to vehemently disagree with how others may choose to air their grievances.”
Harman said those who disrespect what most Americans hold dear “have forgotten that America is still in a 16-year, multi-front war, against a shadow enemy whose end goal is the total destruction of us as a people and country,” in reference to the Afghanistan War.
The VFW leader also saluted former Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ offensive tackle, for coming out to salute the flag while the rest of the team stayed in the locker room during the national anthem.
Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said during a post-game press conference on Sept. 24 that he did not want Villanueva to stand for the anthem.
Tomlin said he was looking for “100 percent participation” from the players in whatever the team chose to do during the national anthem.
Villanueva, a former Army captain who served three tours in Afghanistan, stood by the field entrance with his hand over his heart during the anthem.
Villanueva showed “the rest of his team and the league what true mettle is,” Harman said.