Veterans on national anthem protests: ‘It hurts a little bit’

GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) -- Phones were ringing off the hook Monday morning at The Fan 107.5 sports radio show where hosts are hearing a range of emotions about professional athletes taking a knee during the national anthem.

“We’ve had a variety of calls, from people who are very offended by it, and people who are saying, ‘Let them protest, let them do their thing. Let’s talk about sports,’” says Marques Eversoll, host of The Fan.

He says it’s situations like this where sports and politics collide.

“The president was calling NFL players SOBs and saying they should be fired for silently protesting,” Eversoll says. “At that point, that’s a politician, that’s the president, intersecting the world of sports and politics. So at that point, I feel like you are sticking to sports. That’s a story that’s bigger than just sports or just politics, so it has to be addressed.”

This comes after a strong response by NFL players during the signing of the national anthem this past weekend.

In a sign of solidarity, players and coaches from more than a dozen teams, even those who sung the national anthem, chose to either kneel, stand and link arms, or not even take the field on Sunday.

These protests come after a series of tweets from President Donald Trump calling for the firing of professional athletes who did not stand during the "Star-Spangled Banner."

Veterans Action 2 News spoke with say it’s the players’ right to take a knee during the national anthem, but they also feel it’s hurtful seeing their home team protest.

“I feel like it’s disrespectful. You stand up and honor the flag, and honor the men and women who have died for the country,” says Uriah Stutzman, an Army veteran. “It’s upsetting to see that.”

“I’m okay with you taking a knee, putting your hand in the air. It hurts a little bit, but they’re using their own rights,” says Zachary Harvey, Wisconsin Army National Guard veteran. “I can’t deny them that right to peacefully protest their perspective.”

Both veterans say they saw unity promoted by the Packers during Sunday’s anthem.

“To see them linked arms, at least they were on the field,” says Harvey. “They were there for the national anthem.”

Packers players Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Kevin King kneeled during Sunday’s Packers game against the Cincinnati Bengals. The rest of the team linked arms – quarterback Aaron Rodgers saying it represents a united front.

“This was about unity and we respect our men and women in uniform. We respect our troops. We love them. We appreciate what they do for us,” Rodgers said. “[Sunday] was about using our platform to promote love and unity and acceptance and togetherness and I hope we did that.”

On Monday, White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders responded to the protests – saying it’s about respect.

“This isn't about the president being against something which is what everybody wants to draw. This is about the president being for something,” Huckabee Sanders says. “This is about the president being for respect in our country through symbols like the American flag, like the national anthem, and the hundreds of thousands of people that actually stand versus the few hundred that may have … knelt."

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