Veteran Refuses Service Award Offered by Saints, Calls NFL Protests ‘Slap in the Face’

AP Mark J. Terrill Saints Protest
AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill

The NFL has long-standing tradition of mixing respect for the flag, and those who defend it, into their pregame ceremonies and community outreach. However, since the NFL has recently decided to mix disrespect for the flag, and those who defend it, into their pregame ceremonies. One veteran in Louisiana has decided to call them out on it.

Meet John Wells, he is a retired Navy commander and executive director of the national Military Veterans Advocacy organization, in Slidell, Louisiana. Mr. Wells was chosen by the Saints to be the recipient of the People’s Health Champion award. A recognition offered to a member of the community who exemplifies “the exceptional achievements of Louisiana residents age 65 and older.”

Though flattered by being chosen for the award, Wells could not “in good conscience” accept the award. Given the “slap in the face” he feels NFL players have shown veterans by way of their anthem protests.

“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 in a press release. “Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”

The Saints responded to Wells in a lengthy statement on Thursday afternoon:

Respectfully and honorably, we chose Mr. Wells for the Peoples Health Champion Award purposefully for this game to bring to light the exact issues that he and his organization represent — the health and well-being of our military, veterans and their families. Unfortunately, he has chosen very publicly not to accept this honor and refused the opportunity to promote the very cause for which he was being honored and distract from awareness we hoped to build throughout our community. We respect his decision, he has that right, and we thank him for his service to our country and his past efforts on behalf of the military and veterans.

Saints players protested en masse, along with the rest of the league, after President Trump called protesting players out at a rally in Alabama in late September, Since then, they have knelt prior to the playing of the national anthem, and stood during the actual playing of the song. Some Saints players took to Twitter to throw off the perception that their protest has been anti-military.

Safety Kenny Vaccaro said:

Cameron Jordan weighed-in as well:

While it’s true that the Saints have only knelt prior to the anthem and not during it, in recent weeks. for many fans, all it takes is one such instance to show the organization’s true colors. Another point often made by fans, is that the players are still using the spotlight of the pregame ceremonies to make a political statement, even if they kneel prior to the actual playing of the song. The center-piece of the pregame ceremonies is the presentation of the colors and the playing of the national anthem. You’re still hijacking that moment and using it for political gain, even if you wedge the protest in before the anthem is played.

While many fans oppose the protests because of disrespect for the flag, others oppose it just because they have no desire to see politics when they go to watch a football game.

Some players will complain that, if they’re not allowed to protest during the anthem, or before it. Then when are they allowed to protest? With the implication being that there’s no other way for them to protest unless they do it during a football game. What happened to “taking it to the streets?” How did a football game go from being a place where people never protested, to suddenly becoming the only place people could protest?

Players have dozens of avenues to protest, away from the game. The only reason they’re insisting on doing it at the game is because the social justice warriors who clearly run them, are lusting after the national spotlight the NFL brings.

Nor can the Saints claim that their pre-anthem protests haven’t caused damage. In mid-October, the Saints took their pre-anthem knee, during a tribute for a slain New Orleans police officer.

Long story short, when your protest alienates veterans groups and disgraces tributes to fallen police officers, it’s probably time to find a new place to protest.


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