NEW YORK: NFL players across the nation kneeled during the national anthem Sunday, spurring President Donald Trump to respond on Twitter, saying the kneeling players disrespected the flag and the country.
Trump also brought veterans into the argument, retweeting another user who wrote "I wonder what this brave American would give to stand on his own two legs just once more for our #Anthem?" with an accompanying photo of a soldier in uniform.
Veterans organizations have largely stayed out of the debate in public, but two organizations entered the fray and took opposite stands.
VoteVets, a progressive political action committee, has been tweeting in support of the players’ decision to kneel since Saturday.
"A lot of people are using the military and veterans as part of the argument to why they who never served should be offended by what players do or don’t do," said Jon Soltz, co-chair and founder of VoteVets. "It’s important to explain that when people join the military, the oath they take is to the Constitution, not to a political party, not to the president, and not to the flag."
VoteVets, along with its vocal support on Twitter and Facebook, sent out a petition to its supporters on Saturday, which has already reached more than 15,000 signatures supporting the organization’s position on #TakeAKnee, Soltz said.
Another veterans organization took an opposing view. The American Legion, a nonprofit that supports veterans and their interests including the Veterans Administration and lobbying on behalf of their members’ interests, denounced the NFL players.
In an emailed statement, American Legion National Commander Denise Rohan said the players who kneeled were "misguided and ungrateful."
"Having a right to do something does not make it the right thing to do," Rohan’s statement continued. "We salute Army Ranger Alejandro Villanueva, who stood alone respecting the flag as his teammates stayed in their locker room. NASCAR also deserves credit for their support of our anthem. There are many ways to protest, but the national anthem should be our moment to stand together as one United States of America."
The organization also released a post on its blog Monday that attributed the NFL’s drop in viewership to the political nature of the games recently and condemned the players for taking a knee on Gold Star Mother’s Day.