The National Football League just can’t seem to stay out of trouble. Ratings have plummeted, ticket sales are down, and stadiums are half-empty. And, thanks to the New Orleans Saints, things could be getting worse for the NFL.
Retired Navy Commander, John Wells, served his country for over two decades. After he left the service in 1994, he became an attorney concentrating on veteran and military law. Wells is also the Executive Director of the National Military Veterans Advocacy group. He was going to receive Medicare’s “Peoples Health Champion” award at the Saints game.
But, Wells declined to accept the honor at the Superdome.
“Although I am touched and honored to be selected for such an award, the ongoing controversy with NFL players’ disrespect for the national flag forces me to decline to participate in the presentation,” Wells said. “Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it. To do so would be hypocritical.”
However, rather than putting a halt to players kneeling for the National Anthem, the Saints organization issued a statement criticizing the disabled veteran:
“We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans.”
Unfortunately, that “attention and support” does not include standing for the Star-Spangled Banner.
Each week, every NFL team has players who kneel or in some other way protest the anthem and flag. And despite growing criticism from both fans and sponsors, the protests are not likely to end anytime soon.
After a meeting between players and owners, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell noted there are no plans to stop the protests. Ironically, when Kaepernick started kneeling a year ago, the commissioner was not so supportive. “I think it’s important to have respect for our country, for our flag, for the people who make our country better,” Goodell said.
We can’t help but ask, what happened?