Jackson American Legion turning off NFL games

Sunday, November 12, 2017
San Francisco 49ers outside linebacker Eli Harold, bottom center, and safety Eric Reid, bottom right, kneel during the national anthem Nov. 5 before an NFL football game against the Arizona Cardinals in Santa Clara, California. The American Legion post in Jackson announced it would no longer show NFL games at its facility as long as its players continue to kneel in protest during the anthem.
Jeff Chiu, Associated Press

Jackson's American Legion post has announced it no longer will permit NFL games on facility televisions as long as players continue to kneel during the national anthem.

Kevin McMeel, commander at the American Legion Altenthal-Joerns Post 158, said Friday in a phone interview the move is intended as a counterprotest aimed at the NFL.

McMeel, a Coast Guard veteran, has been involved with the American Legion for nearly a decade and is serving his second term as commander. While he said he supports individual rights to free expression, he said he sees kneeling during the national anthem to be disrespecting the flag, and by extension, the country and its veterans.

"Everyone's got a right to your own individual opinion, but once they put on that uniform and step on the field, they're part of a team. They represent a team and the NFL, not themselves," he said.

Still, he said the purpose of abstaining from watching NFL games is aimed at the NFL more than the people who protest.

"Our beef is with the NFL," he said. "[The protests] expanded and the NFL continued to allow it. ... They're the ones who are condoning it, and I would say encouraging it."

He said he felt the league's response has been permissive toward those kneeling for the anthem.

McMeel disagrees with those who suggest the protest should be taken only as a statement about racial discrimination.

"What do the police have to do with a football game, other than the police are protecting the game in the irony of it all? ... If you have a problem with the police, go do it at a police station," he said. "Go on a ride along. ... First of all, do it on your own time."

He said the screening ban was chosen unanimously in October during a post meeting.

"There was absolutely no opposition," he said.

Still, he said he enjoys football -- he's a self-described lifelong "Packer backer" of the Green Bay team -- and would turn the games back on if the NFL would take action to prevent the demonstrations.

"We hope we don't have to [ban the games] for much longer," he said.

He said the demonstrations feel like a personal offense.

"You think about it; it's like taking a fire hose and spraying a crowd of people and saying, 'Only the males between 18 and 30 are getting wet,'" he said.

He believes the NFL, as a business, should be able to enforce a policy change to curtail certain types of personal expression.

"You can't go out and wear a purple uniform if your team's in white just for your personal expression, in my humble opinion," he said. "They gotta remember, they're entertainers."

NFL players who have taken a knee have repeatedly expressed their demonstration is to bring attention to injustices, and are not aimed at the military or veterans.

tgraef@semissourian.com

(573) 388-3627

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