AMHERST — American Legion Post 118 will not be showing NFL games as part of a boycott of the league in response to some players taking a knee during the national anthem.
The post joins a growing number of veterans’ organizations that have taken similar actions across the area that are upset with what they feel is showing disrespect to the flag, national anthem and veterans.
“I just think it’s an insult that we should pay to watch people disrespect our flag and our national anthem,” Post 118 member Mike Schrull said. “The football players have a right to protest and bring their injustices to the forefront. I don’t think insulting my flag and my national anthem is the place that should be done.”
The controversy began last season when Colin Kaepernick, who then played quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers, began taking a knee during the national anthem to protest injustices against African-Americans by police officers across the country. During the season, a few other players joined Kaepernick by taking a knee during the anthem.
Kaepernick, who entered free agency last offseason, has not been signed by a team, causing some to question why. When the NFL season began, more players began taking a knee, or some other form of protest, during the national anthem.
When President Donald Trump called for any NFL players who take a knee during the anthem to be fired a couple weeks ago, the number of players who protested skyrocketed.
Post 118 Commander John Kocak isn’t thrilled news of the boycott was posted on social media, nor does he support the boycott.
“The reason I want to show the NFL games is I served my country proudly for six years in the Navy, and I fought for the right for them to protest,” Kocak said. “I fought for the freedom of speech, and it’s their right to protest. Now, I don’t condone what they do, but they still have that right to protest during the national anthem.”
Kocak said he wished the decision to not show games at the post had not been made public.
“It’s not everybody at that post that feels that way,” he said. “It’s a few select people that brought it to the meeting. There were 30 people in that meeting that voted, and not all of them voted to boycott.”
Schrull feels that the boycott should be publicized, though.
“I think that social media is exactly where it should be,” he said. “What good is a boycott if you keep it internal and nobody knows about it?
“If I boycott a restaurant, but I don’t tell that restaurant why I’m boycotting it and just don’t go back in, that restaurant will never know what I feel.”
Kocak said he feels the boycott could put the post in a bad light.
“It kind of makes our post look like were a bunch of racists,” he said. “It’s not that at all, and it’s not the feeling of the whole club. We have 1,200 people that attend our post. There were only 30 people at the meeting, and 20 of them voted for the boycott.”
While Kocak supports the players’ right to protest, he said he wishes they would do it differently.
“I don’t like them using it with the flag or the national anthem as the forum,” Kocak said. “I wish they’d get with the NFL and put your money where your mouth is and bring awareness in another way. Get with the cops and start up projects within the inner city.
“But I don’t live in the inner city, and I don’t know what they’ve gone through.”
Schrull estimated that three-fourths of those who attended the meeting voted in favor of the boycott, rather than the two-thirds Kocak said. He also said he believes the players have the right to protest.
“They do have the right, but the veterans’ organizations have the right not to support people that want to insult their flag they fought for and that some of their people have died for,” he said. “I’m not saying the players may not have a righteous complaint. I’m saying I don’t feel that insulting my flag and my anthem is the correct play to air that complaint.”
Kocak believes Post 118 will eventually begin showing NFL games again.
“I think it will be revisited once they do stop taking a knee and stand at attention during the national anthem,” he said. “I think it’ll be a calmer situation then, and then we’ll bring it back. This is a democracy, though; they voted and they passed it.”
While most veterans’ organizations in the county are showing games, Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 6941 in Wellington and VFW Post 8686 in Sheffield Lake have stopped showing the games. American Legion Post 008, also in Wellington, said it’s showing games but canceled its NFL package.
North Ridgeville American Legion Post 717 is expected to discuss whether to continue showing NFL games at a meeting tonight.
Contact Scott Mahoney at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SMahoneyCT.
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