The flag is ‘sacred,’ so Rahway American Legion burns NFL jerseys
RAHWAY — The local American Legion post won't be watching the Jets or Giants this season — or any other football teams..
American Legion Post No. 5 joined other posts around the country that had banned NFL games from their television after players around the league staged protests during the national anthem. Last weekend, post members took their protests a step further as they gathered to burn football jerseys.
Post Commander Randy Wahl said the burning of the football jerseys was done not to express their displeasure with what the players did, but rather with the fact that the league allowed players to protest during the anthem.
"I took an oath to the Constitution of the United States, but I also took a personal oath to protect our flag," he said. "To some people the flag is nothing more than a symbol, but to me it's sacred to my heart because I served this country."
Wahl said he understood the players feeling the need to express themselves and to protest if they thought it was right, but disagreed with allowing that time and place to be during the anthem prior to their games.
"Everybody does have the right to protest. I understand that 100 percent," he said. "A lot of people died for that flag over the years, and fighting for this country, a lot of men and women lost their lives mainly fighting for that flag not only just the constitution."
As a "diehard Giants fan," Wahl said not watching his team, even with its struggles this season, "sucks pretty bad." But he said he hopes with posts like his and others taking a stand against the NFL, they will ensure that the flag and the constitution are protected.
"I just wish that NFL just made sure that everybody stood during the National Anthem and for our flag," he said. "That's the only reason we did the protests."
While not a national directive from the American Legion, the organization has weighed in on the player's protests, calling the organization "one of the original architects of the U.S. flag code."
"The code calls on all present to stand at attention while the anthem is played," National Commander Denise H. Rohan said in a statement. "It wasn't political when it was written, and it shouldn't be political today."
In addition to Rahway, other posts have taken similar steps to ban football from their locations. Post 61 in Watertown, New York also banned the games on its screens in what the Watertown Daily Times described as a close vote. Post Commander Dwight J. Doane told the Times that some members were left "very upset."
According to Delaware Online, one local post that would welcome dozens of guests on football days has seen that number shrink to less than a dozen with people also deciding to boycott the NFL.
Wahl said he hopes to see posts around the country rally together behind this cause in hopes of seeing the league as a whole make a change.
"I would just hope that all the other American Legions follow. I'm sure a lot of them have already," he said. "A lot of posts aren't having football right now. I just hope it hurts the NFL a little bit."
According to USA today, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said the league wants to see the national anthem protests stop. But After meeting with players last week, Goodell said the league has not banned the protests by players, and are looking at ways to address their larger issues.
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Contact reporter Adam Hochron at 609-359-5326 or Adam.Hochron@townsquaremedia.com