Chester American Legion to Stop Showing NFL Games

Chester club makes move in response to player protests

Some Buffalo Bills players take a knee during the national anthem before the first half of an NFL football game between the Atlanta Falcons and the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 1, 2017, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/John Bazemore)

CHESTER — A local veterans’ organization has become the latest to boycott the National Football League following protests during the national anthem at games throughout the season.

Effective immediately, the American Legion Post 121 on Carolina Avenue no longer will display NFL games on any of the post’s eight television screens in response to the protests made by numerous players, who have chosen to kneel, pray, bow their heads, sit or not appear on the field instead of standing during the anthem.

According to post Commander John Hissam, members discussed the issue during a post meeting Monday, and an overwhelming majority voted to stop showing the games indefinitely.

Hissam said the ban will remain in effect until the NFL comes up with a favorable solution to the players’ actions, which he and fellow post member Greg Van Dorn — both veterans — believe are disrespectful to those who serve, or have served, in the military.

“The expressions that were expressed at the meeting — and I was one of them — I put my life on the line to allow them that right to do that, and I wouldn’t deny them that right, but I will not allow them to throw that in my face every Sunday,” Hissam said. “And I will not watch them until they get it corrected.”

“Like John, I laid my life on the line there for this country, and I don’t want to see my flag trashed, or the statement they’re trying to make, trashing it and using it as a political platform,” Van Dorn added.

Several players throughout the NFL this season have kneeled or sat throughout the season, with many players going on record stating that the protests were to speak out against racism and other social issues. But they have been met with mixed reviews and widespread criticism, most notably by President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Hissam believes that while it is their right to protest, doing so during the National Anthem isn’t the right time to do it.

“The country is the United States of America, and the flag and the anthem is our national symbol and national song,” Hissam said. “We have lots of problems in this country, and that is a political answer they’re trying to get to through sports. Those gentlemen are paid lots of money to play football, not to demonstrate against my country and theirs. If they want to do it, they have the time to do it on their own.”

Hissam said some members expressed concerns over how not showing the games could affect business.

“We had members that were against it totally, but there was a very few compared to a large number that was for it, and as in all items run by this post, it’s done by majority,” Hissam said. “The majority does everything.”

Hissam said he will address the American Legion’s West Virginia state commander and encourage other posts and veterans organizations throughout the state to follow suit.

He said he also plans to send letters to the NFL expressing concern over the issue.

“I can only speak for this post, Post 121, but we overwhelmingly support shutting it off until they straighten it out,” Hissam said.