At least one North Carolina VFW post has joined the wave of counterprotests by VFW posts across the country who are not showing National Football League games after several teams and players have protested during the national anthem.
Some members of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 1706 in Lincolnton, about 35 miles northwest of Charlotte, joined the counterprotests and burned their NFL jerseys and hats on the front lawn of the post on Sept. 30, the Lincoln Times-News reported. They were watching a college football game at the post beforehand.
One member, Burnell Tipton, burned his Pittsburgh Steelers jersey after only one athlete from the team stepped out to face the flag during the anthem on Sept. 24.
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That athlete was Alejandro Villanueva, an Army Ranger who has been deployed in Afghanistan.
“We honor our veterans,” Tipton, a member of Post 1706, told the Lincoln Times-News.
“What I think is a disgrace is that veterans have died for our country and we’ve got people who don’t respect our national anthem, our country and our veterans. They’re making all this money and turning their backs on the national anthem.”
Chad Houk, another member of Post 1706, burned his Carolina Panthers jersey in protest of Julius Peppers’ decision to stay in the locker room during the national anthem before the Panthers played against the New Orleans Saints on Sept. 24, according to the report.
“When I saw that Peppers sat out last Sunday, I threw (the jersey) out the back door and it hasn’t been back in my house since,” Chad Houk told the Lincoln Times-News. “I paid $100 for it, but I’m burning it today. Anybody that can’t support our country or acknowledge the national anthem I’m not going to support them.”
Wake County’s VFW posts continue to show NFL games, and some have cited the First Amendment free-speech rights of the athletes. For South Wake County VFW Post 10225 in Garner, showing NFL games was nearly irrelevant since its members mostly watch college football, said post canteen manager Teena Barbour.
Hundreds of NFL players have knelt, stood arm-in-arm or chosen not to come out of the locker room for the national anthem during this NFL season to protest racial injustice and police brutality.
The controversy around the protests has been enhanced by remarks President Trump made at a rally in Alabama on Sept. 22 after a weekend of protests from NFL athletes: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now? Out! He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
The controversy made headlines again on Sunday when Vice President Mike Pence left the NFL game between the 49ers and Colts in Indianapolis. At least 20 of the 49ers had taken a knee during the anthem, and a few others stood behind them with hands on their shoulders.