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Local veteran’s group, community respond to NFL anthem policy

Baltimore Ravens kneeling before a game (Photo by Alex Pantling/Getty Images)

HIGH POINT, N.C. — The American flag is front and center outside of VFW Post 9899 in High Point.  Where inside, NFL games have been turned off.

“As a veteran I was upset,” said Rick Stevenson, quartermaster for Post 9899.

Stevenson says the decision was made to stop showing NFL games after players across the league began kneeling and doing other forms of protests during the national anthem.

“Last season at our general membership meeting we had a motion made from the floor that we would not show football games from the NFL here,” he said.

The protests started a couple of seasons ago after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick began kneeling in response to police brutality against African-Americans.

“By not standing for the Pledge of Allegiance you’re slapping the face of our veterans,” Stevenson said.

This week, NFL owners approved a rule that requires players to stand during the national anthem while they are on the field. Players also have the option to stay in the locker room.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell aid in a statement that “we believe today’s decision will keep our focus on the game and the extraordinary athletes who play it.”

“I feel like the owners of the NFL are trying to do something to show their support for the United States and the flag,” Stevenson said.

Outside of the VFW there is disagreement over the NFL’s policy.

“We promote them as our role models and as a role model you need to make a stand for what is wrong and they feel like they are making a stand for what is wrong,” said Brian Timmerman, who doesn’t support the new policy.

The NAACP released this statement:

“Protest is an American tradition; by protesting we work to hold our country accountable to its highest ideals. Instead of coming together to address an issue disproportionately plaguing the African American, the NFL owners have chosen to bury their heads and silence players. Players cannot disconnect from the aggression African Americans face every day. Just a few weeks ago, an NFL player was stopped by police and accused of being a gang member. Others including Michael Bennett have experienced dangerous and threatening experiences at the hands of police.

“The issue of police brutality remains a pressing issue when 408 people have been killed by police this year. Black men are almost three times more likely to be killed by the use of deadly force than white men. Despite the annual killing of approximately 1,000 people by police, in a 12-year period, only 28 police officers were convicted of murder or manslaughter for an on-duty killing.

“The NAACP supports and commends the athletes in the NFL, NBA, and WNBA who refuse to stay quiet and just play ball – they stand strong with all people who continue to fight for social justice.”

“I think the NFL is doing the right thing. If somebody wants to protest, I don’t think this is the right place,” said Manuel Cabazos, who supports the new policy.

Current and former NFL players chimed in on Twitter. Carolina Panthers wide receiver Torrey Smith tweeted:

“‘Appropriate respect for flag and anthem’ implies that guys were being disrespectful. Which is an opinion. Most people who believe that ignore the responses from the players and more importantly why men chose to protest.”

Post 9899 tells FOX8 that with this new policy they will now start watching NFL games.