American Legion in Dover boycotting NFL games on Veterans Day weekend

American Legion Walter L. Fox Post 2 Commander Tammy Hull says that NFL football will not be shown during Veterans Day weekend. (Delaware State News/Marc Clery)

DOVER — Country music crooner Hank Williams Jr., along with his rowdy friends from Florida Georgia Line and Jason Derulo, sing to the TV cameras on a weekly basis, asking, “Are you ready for some football?”

This Sunday, fresh off the heels of today’s Veterans Day ceremonies throughout Delaware, the American Legion’s Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 will provide a resounding answer to that question — by tuning its televisions away from the NFL games and showing NASCAR and golf instead.

Walter L. Fox Post No. 2’s temporary boycott of the NFL is in response to players from teams across the country that say they are bringing light to social injustice and police brutality by taking a knee during the national anthem prior to football games.

Veterans’ organizations such as the American Legion say they don’t believe that kneeling during the national anthem is the proper forum to lodge a protest.

Tammy Hull, commander of Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 in south Dover, agrees with the stance of the national body of the American Legion.

“We’re standing in solidarity with the rest of the United States and the veterans’ organizations,” Commander Hull said, of the upcoming NFL boycott. “Basically, we’re not in the business of supporting something, an organization or a sport, that doesn’t support us.

“Showing their political views on the field is not the place where it should be. There are forums, every team has press gatherings after every game … on the field and in front of the whole United States is not the place to do it. Personal views should be taken to a personal level.”

The Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 Executive Board, at its monthly hearing on Monday, decided not to air NFL games on Sunday, receiving the approval of The Post Home Supervisory Committee.

“I support the Legion,” said Bob Hice, an American Legion member who is retired from the U.S. Air Force. “There should be a national day where all Legions and veteran organizations boycott the NFL together.”

Dave Skocik, president of the Delaware Veterans Coalition, said in late September that he also sees the protests by NFL players as an insult to veterans.
The flag is a “sacred symbol” and not standing for the national anthem is “like peeing on a gravestone, in a sense,” he said.

The protests over racial inequality are unrelated to “The Star-Spangled Banner” and the American flag, Mr. Skocik said, noting he has no respect for “anything that they have to say about their beliefs when they disrespect the flag.”

Commander Hull admittedly had some “mixed feelings” about the NFL players’ protests at the beginning.

“At first it broke my heart,” she said. “Then, thinking about it, us veterans have fought for the right for them to do that (kneel). On one hand, we can’t really say anything about it, but my personal opinion is for people to always respect our flag.”

American Legion National Commander Denise H. Rohan put it more bluntly when she offered her feelings about the NFL protests during the national anthem.

“There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one United States of America,” she said. “Having a right to do something does not make it the right thing to do.”

Protests gain in numbers, contribute to division

The protests began when then-San Francisco 49ers’ quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem during his team’s preseason games in 2016.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Mr. Kaepernick told NFL Media in August 2016. “To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”

The NFL protests spread throughout the league like wildfire at the beginning of this year, especially after President Trump said that NFL owners should fire players who kneel during the national anthem, and encouraged fans to walk out.

The President advised NFL owners to say “Get that son of a b- off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!,” calling the players who protest “a total disrespect of our heritage.”

The NFL protests have contributed to 8 percent lower TV ratings for the NFL this season, according to Nielsen, the company that measures the ratings for TV programs.

They also have national companies like Papa John’s pizza re-examining their sponsorship of the professional football league.

Declining popularity

Ms. Hull said it wasn’t uncommon for Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 to have 40 to 50 football fans surrounding its two bars watching football on Sundays in recent years.

However, this year the venue might have only four or five people gathered for the games.

“In sports such as NASCAR, the American support for the veterans has definitely been taken to a higher level,” Commander Hull said. “We’ve definitely lost revenue in (televising NFL games). We would have both bars open and since then we’ve had to close one of the bars and very few people come out for it anymore.

“This Sunday we are going to be showing NASCAR and golf and we’re also going to be having a benefit.”

Flag close to Legion’s heart

The American flag is a sacred symbol that is close to the members of the American Legion’s heart. It represents freedom, and the lives of many who gave their lives in defense of those freedoms.

“The American Legion has been pushing for the flag non-desecration (bill) for years now and our flag amendment has been one of the bases of our support in Congress,” Commander Hull said.

That is why the majority of its’ members get offended when a protest is made during the national anthem.

“The American Legion is one of the original architects of the U.S. Flag Code,” said Commander Rohan, a U.S Army veteran. “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.”

The NFL’s polarizing protests this year is the No. 1 reason that Walter L. Fox Post No. 2 won’t “be ready for some football” on Sunday.

Delaware State News staff writer Mike Finney can be reached at mfinney@newszap.com.

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