A retired U.S. Navy commander has decided to turn down what he considers a “tainted” award from the New Orleans Saints because of the ongoing national anthem take-a-knee protests by players in the National Football League.
In an on-field ceremony at the Superdome, the Saints planned to honor disabled vet and attorney John Wells with the People’s Champion Award given to those age 65-plus who make “exceptional achievements” to the community.
Wells is the executive director of the Military Veterans Advocacy nonprofit organization based in Slidell, Louisiana, and served in the U.S. Navy from 1972 to 1994.
In a statement, John Wells explained why he turned down the award from the team, which was apparently scheduled to be made last Sunday during halftime of the game against the visiting Chicago Bears, the New Orleans Advocate reported.
“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. I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails. Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”
Parenthetically, according to USA Today, Wells was set to be recognized today at halftime of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers game, rather than last Sunday.
Wells, whose professional career focuses on military and veterans law and benefits, also described the “disgraceful” protests as “a slap in the face” to those who are on active duty or are retired from the service.
In a very long and perhaps defensive statement posted on its website, the New Orleans Saints explained, among other things, that it respected Wells’ decision, thanked him for his service, and added that the team has honored and supported the U.S. military for 50 years. With that said, it characterized Wells’ dissatisfaction with the NFL as “unfortunate and disappointing.”
The Saints also claimed that in their entire history since the franchise came into the league in 1967, players only kneeled during the Star-Spangled Banner once — in Week 3 of the current season before taking on the Carolina Panthers.
“We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans,” the Saints insisted.
According to ESPN, Saints players as a standard practice collectively kneel before the anthem and then stand up while the anthem is played.
Cmdr. John Wells told USA Today that the players have a right to take a knee, but he has a right to decline the New Orleans Saints’ award.
For whatever reason or combination of reasons, including the take-a-knee protests, NFL TV ratings this season are trending downward. Some industry insiders claim that oversaturation of the product is the main factor, i.e., given football game telecasts on Thursday, Sunday, and Monday.
[Featured Image by Tim Ireland/AP Images]