For weeks, many NFL players have generated a hot topic of discussion through pregame protesting for social activism by taking a knee during the presentation of the National Anthem.
It might be difficult to find anyone who doesn’t have an entrenched opinion of the subject — no less than the President of the United States, Donald Trump, has weighed in several times and made the subject a frequent talking point.
For United States military veterans, the topic can be a particular sore spot. The flag and National Anthem are representative of a country they’ve worked hard to defend.
Luling’s Dennis Diehl is a veteran of the Marine Corps and a professed avid football fan, but he nonetheless sees red when it comes to the protests.
“I think it’s awful,” Diehl said. “The vast majority of these people haven’t served … I don’t have a lot of respect for them or what they’re doing. I’ve always been a football fan, but this is crazy. I can’t speak for all veterans and I’d never try to, but I know a lot of them do feel the same way. It’s something I’ve been outspoken about since the beginning.”
Don Hoffman of Luling served 35 years in the Air Force and is also bothered by the kneeling.
“I think it’s a lot of disrespect for the flag and for the country, to choose to do that during the National Anthem,” said Hoffman, who served from 1974 to 2009. “It just bothers me.”
For Perry Muller of Luling, who served 43 years in the United States Navy, it’s less about the idea behind the protest and more an issue of simple timing.
“I really don’t think they’re protesting the country or that they have anything against the military, but I do think they’re choosing the wrong platform to hold their protest,” Muller said. “Protest on your own time, not before a football game. To me, when I’m watching a football game, I’d rather not watch protests going on prior to the game. It’s an issue of where they’re choosing to do it.”
None of the veterans professed anger directed to the cause behind the protests, though. Like Mueller, Diehl said time and place was the largest motivator behind his disagreement.
“They want to use football to further their movement,” Diehl said. “I have nothing against their movement. Do what you’ve got to do. But leave the flag out of it.
“I’ve loved football forever. It makes me want to boycott and I wish I could bring myself to do that, but I honestly do like my football. But as someone who’s served, it’s tough to see.”
A CBS poll of over 1,300 respondents held earlier this month showed that 73 percent of those voting believed players were trying to draw attention to racial inequality. Sixty-nine percent said players were calling attention to unfair police tactics, while 40 percent believed the goal was to disrespect flag and anthem itself.