In response to athletes kneeling during the playing of the national anthem on Sunday, two commanders from prominent veterans organizations have released statements disapproving of the displays of protest.
“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,” said Veterans of Foreign Wars national commander Keith Harman, a Vietnam combat veteran.
“My oath to protect the Constitution also protects my right to vehemently disagree with how others may choose to air their grievances,” Harman said.
“I stand for our flag and anthem and I kneel for our fallen,” he added. “That’s what patriots do. We rally around the flag of our country, not use it and our Constitution as both shield and sword.”
American Legion national commander Denise Rohan, a U.S. Army veteran, described the athletes and “other Americans who fail to show respect for the national anthem” as “misguided and ungrateful.”
She cited the Legion’s work on the U.S. Flag Code with other organizations in 1923.
“The code calls on all present to stand at attention while the anthem is played,” she said. “It wasn’t political when it was written and it shouldn’t be political today. Having a right to do something, does not make it the right thing to do.”
Both Rohan and Harman praised former Army Ranger and now Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva in their statements, as well as NASCAR, for their show of support for the anthem.
“There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one UNITED States of America,” Rohan said, emphasis hers.