Saints fans react to NFL protests

While fans were celebrating after the team's win against the Carolina Panthers, what happened before the game still has people talking.

NEW ORLEANS, La. - Saints fans have something to say about Sunday's NFL protests. While they were celebrating after the team's win against the Carolina Panthers, what happened before the game still has people talking.

"It's two sides of a very divisive issue," said fan Richard Hofler.

During the national anthem, ten players sat and four stood in support next to them, to protest comments made by President Donald Trump Friday. Those 14 athletes joined at least 100 others in the NFL Sunday in taking a stand. As fans watched, opinions were thrown from all sides.

"It's their right to do that. I'm not sure I would've done that," said Hofler.

"No comment really," said Jennifer Kelly. "I'm just happy the Saints won, no controversy today."

Social media lit up, many using #TakeAKnee. On Facebook, WOW Cafe and Wingery in Chalmette posted they would not show the Saints game. The message on their page stated: "I apologize to all of our guests but we will not be viewing the Saints game today in house. Some of our local players chose to sit during the National Anthem, which will not be supported or praised at WOW. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you."

Others posted pictures and video, like one now former Saints fan who showed her anger towards the team by burning the gear she owned (watch full video here). The video has been viewed thousands of times and shared over Facebook. It was posted with the caption: "To the NFL and to you Tom Benson! Together you have ruined and taken the fun out of sports! I'm calling for a burn of all Saints memorabilia! Please share this if you need to. #doitonyourowntine #nflnotforlong #boycottthenfl"

"I think it's making people think and I think we're a better country when people take the time to stop and think," said fan Richard Crawford. "I think we need to look at some of the things going on in this country and we're viewing it now through sports."

People Eyewitness News spoke with say they see both sides of the issue and understand why people are against players kneeling. For Crawford, he hopes it starts a conversation.

"They have a right to do that, certainly. They are Americans," said Crawford. "We look at the contributions of Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, John Carlos, Tommie Smith, Muhammad Ali, Billie Jean King, and because of each of the statements those people made through sports, our country has gotten even greater. We're at another challenge now and I think through viewing this through the lens of sports is one way we'll become a more perfect union."

Richard Crawford agrees, but feels the players have a right to do what they want.

"I'm a veteran from the Marine Corps," he said. "I'm very much a patriotic individual. I stand, I salute, I support their right not to. That's a right given to them by the First Amendment and I think the person sitting in the White House should be defending that right. I'm not as upset by someone sitting during the Pledge of Allegiance as I am someone from the federal government calling for someone to be fired for exercising their right to free speech."

The NFL protest is no doubt controversial.

"I believe in their right to make a statement and make a protest," said Hofler. "I also believe that the flag and the Pledge of Allegiance stand for something significant. I have many friends in the military and I know that they stand by the flag and the flag stands for something significantly different to them than even myself."

However despite how some feel, there are fans who say what happened Sunday won't stop them from cheering on the black and gold.

"I've got time in my life for one team and it's the Saints," said Hofler. "And I'm going to keep watching them."

"Football is a way I access the community, it's a way I engage with my neighbors," said Baudean. "I'm not going to stop enjoying Saints games."

WOW Cafe and Wingery in Chalmette denied an on-camera interview, but released the following statement to Eyewitness News:

"Brook Songy Anastasiadis, owner of the WOW Cafe and Wingery in Chalmette chose not to televise the Saints game once she saw some Saints players were sitting during the National Anthem prior to today's game. She made this post on the restaurant's Facebook page right before the game started: 'I apologize to all of our guests but we will not be viewing the Saints game today in house. Some of our local players chose to sit during the National Anthem, which will not be supported or praised at WOW. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. Thank you.'

"I stand behind my decision and I want to make this clear, the sole reason that I didn't air the game is because I feel the players disrespected the National Anthem and that is something I hold dear to my heart. That's how I was raised, I have family members who served our great country in the military and I was taught to respect the National Anthem, the flag, the military and people in general," said Anastasiadis.  

"Brook did not intend to start a firestorm, she simply did what she felt was right. The players exercised their right not to stand for the National Anthem and she exercised her right not to air the game because of their actions. The freedom goes both ways," Said Ray Sutherlin, spokesman for Anastasiadis. "Just a week ago Brook put together a fundraiser for two St. Bernard Parish deputies who were critically injured in an ATV accident and raised $3,291.15 to help the two families out.  Each with a wife and children. On top of that, she and her siblings matched it and gave the families $6,582.30 to help them during their current difficulties. That's the kind of person she is. She has done more than a few of these type events to give back and/or support her community."

"We won't ever all agree on these sensitive topics and I understand that, I've received a lot of positive feedback because of this and I've received some negative feedback too and that's ok. On the other hand, I strongly believe in the support of our country, our flag, the military, the National Anthem and I always will," said Anastasiadis.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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