In a unanimous vote, Wellington VFW Post 6941 has decided to halt its Sunday airings of NFL games.
The move is in response to NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in protest against the shootings of unarmed suspects by police officers.
Post commander Gary Primuth said while he respects the rights of players to exercise their free speech, he thinks they should take a different approach.
“Right after the kneeling started we found out some other VFWs in the area were cutting the games out,” he said. “We said we’re going to cut it out too. It’s just that simple. It’s an effrontery to not only veterans but all citizens of the county, in my opinion. Mostly everyone agreed with that. The players are making a statement and we’re going to make a statement too.”
“Why not get in the schools in their communities?” asked Primuth. “Why not work to elect a councilman they like?”
In regard to the shooting of unarmed suspects, Primuth said the solution is to employ more police officers who live or have lived in the communities they’ll be patrolling.
“There are always different communities, whether they’re segregated by financial ability or race,” he said. “You have to have policemen from those communities who understand how to work with and talk to people of that ilk. If you take someone from a totally different culture and put them in there, they generally won’t be ready to deal with the culture of that community.”
Primuth went on to call the kneeling “symbolism over substance.”
“What (the players) are doing is meaningless,” he said. “They’ve got all this money and they’re just showboating. To me, it’s nauseating. I don’t care if you feel it’s justified or not. They could be doing something to really help the situation, but they’re not. They’re just drawing attention to themselves. I have neither sympathy nor respect for them.”
Comments on the Enterprise’s Facebook page supported both sides of the issue.
“I support (the VFW’s) decision to not air the games,” said Melissa Jamison Reavis. “As a granddaughter, daughter, and soon-to-be mother of a service member, the players should respect the flag and the men and women that fought and paid the ultimate sacrifice….”
“They have the right to not show (NFL games) and players have the right to show how they feel,” said Tom Seman. “The rights those soldiers fought to protect.”
“Will the VFW then please take take up conversations each Sunday from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. to discuss why these players have chosen to kneel during the anthem?” asked Dave Farago. “I think they all have heard by now that (kneeling) is entirely not about the flag, but about racial divides that have seeped back into this country.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-647-3171 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.