Military veterans have mixed reactions to NFL protests

While several said this was too controversial for them to talk about, we did find there are not two, but at least three sides to the issue.

NEW ORLEANS -- After more than 200 players throughout the NFL did not stand for the national anthem Sunday, some are asking if a football game is the right or wrong place to protest.

So Eyewitness News got a variety of opinions from veterans about the controversy.

Reportedly, sales are soaring of the jersey of the lone Pittsburgh Steeler, who stood for the anthem with his hand over his heart, Alejandro Villanueva. He is also a former U.S. Army ranger.

While several said this was too controversial for them to talk about, Eyewitness News did find there are not two, but at least three sides to the issue.

There are veterans who put their lives on the line for the country who disagree with the protests against the anthem and flag at football games.

"I think they ought to respect the flag and if they don't do it, do it on their own time. Don't do it where there's supposed to be sportsmanship," said Harry Blakeman, a U.S. Air Force Veteran from Virginia.

"I think that they ought to stand and honor the flag, honor all of those that give the ultimate sacrifice," said U.S. Army Veteran Bill Robertson from Nebraska.

There are several veterans Eyewitness News spoke with on and off camera who believe the players' protest should be done in a different way and different venue.

"They're disrespecting the flag and the country. It stands for something and I understand they're standing for something also. That means something. I honor they're intent, but they're choosing the wrong place and time to do it," said Kirk Blakeman, a Desert Storm Veteran from Virginia.

Then there are veterans who say the flag and anthem at a game, with its huge stadium and TV audience, is the right place.

"It's a non-violent protest. If they are concerned about them protesting, why don't they get out and address the issue?" said U.S. Air Force Veteran, Carl Galmon of New Orleans.

He says the protests are not against the flag or military, but in his opinion, they're to bring attention to the black men that are being shot multiple times by law enforcement and the courts that are not delivering a fair verdict.

"I spent time in the military defending this country," Galmon said. "Where's the democracy?"

Eyewitness News spoke to Sergeant Galmon about the Harvard study last summer, finding police were no more likely to shoot non-white people than people after factoring in extenuating circumstances, but that black people and Hispanic people were more than 50 percent more likely to experience physical interactions with police; touching, pushing, handcuffing, drawing a weapon, and using a baton or pepper spray.

He questioned the validity of the statistics, and said it's also about poverty and social equality.

© 2017 WWL-TV


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