A Detroit Lions fan said protesting players were disrespecting the freedoms he’d fought for — but he was hard-pressed to name what those were.
About two-dozen conservatives took part in a counter-protest Sunday outside Ford Field, where the Lions played the Carolina Panthers, reported The Detroit News.
Protest organizer Brian Pannebacker, a Harrison Township autoworker and anti-union activist, said the demonstration was intended to show support for President Donald Trump on the issue.
“I’m a veteran and my son is in the Army,” Pannebacker said. “It bothers me when I see people disrespecting the flag during our national anthem. Trump spoke out about this issue and I said if they continued to protest on the sidelines, on national TV, I’d organize a protest.”
Trump admitted he sent Vice President Mike Pence to the Indianapolis Colts-San Francisco 49ers game with the order to walk out if players kneeled to protest racial inequality and police brutality, and he did.
“I left today’s Colts game because @POTUS and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem,” Pence tweeted shortly after walking out of the game in protest.
One Detroit fan told WZZM-TV that he agreed with Pannebacker and the other pro-Trump protesters.
“Take a knee is just straight up disrespectful to the United States,” said the fan, who said his name was Ryan but declined to give his last name. “There are a lot of people who fought pretty hard for this country and the freedoms that we have, and to do that on national television is pretty terrible. I would say that taking a knee goes against what we fought for.”
The reporter asked Ryan what he had fought for that players opposed, but he came up empty.
“We fought for our country and for our freedoms — but I guess, I got to think about this one,” he said.
A friend then pointed out to Ryan that he’d contradicted himself, according to the TV station.
Eight demonstrators from the the Metro Detroit Political Action Network protested Pannebacker’s counter-protest, wearing shirts that said “Black Lives Matter” and “F*ck Nazis.”
No Lions players kneeled before this week’s game, but eight did so Sept 24, after Trump started calling out NFL protesters, and two did last week.
Lions owner Martha Firestone Ford locked arms with players two weeks ago in solidarity, and she offered to donate to organizations fighting injustice and inequality if protesting players stood as a team during the National Anthem.
Lions running back Ameer Abdullah told The Detroit News that players viewed Ford’s offer as a constructive solution to their protest, but Pannebacker wasn’t impressed by the team owner standing with players.
“It’s not acceptable,” Pannebacker said. “I think she’s an enabler, she’s enabling her team to disrespect the flag.”