Detroit — As the Detroit Lions’ owner and players took a stand Sunday against President Donald Trump’s call that NFL players be fired for kneeling in protest at the playing of the National Anthem, some fans were in solidarity with them.
Von Hogan, 50, of Roseville sees the controversy through two prisms: as a black male and as a former U.S. Army staff sergeant who once worked flag detail, readying the Stars and Stripes for display “every morning at 6 o’clock.”
“I got a certain thing about the flag myself,” he said. But flags, he said, have only the meaning people give them.
“It’s a piece of cloth with some stitches in it,” Hogan said. “What does it stand for? Forget about the flag, what are we doing to each other?”
“How are you pissed about the (protest), but not pissed about young kids getting shot for dumb stuff?” Hogan asked. “The flag is three colors. America has so many more than that. We’re a melting pot,” he said, while making the motions of a cook stirring a vat of soup.
Sean Allen, 35, who was running late to Ford Field after the start of the game, called the president’s remarks “uncalled for.”
“He has no right to say what people do,” said Allen, who lives downtown. “We’re a free country. People have the right to express their feelings, and for him to get involved is just ridiculous.”
“As long as they are together,” Allen said of his home team. “If a player wants to kneel, and another teammate respects that, I’m for that if that’s what they want to do. We’re going to be stronger as one than we are divided.”
At an Alabama rally to support Republican U.S. Senate candidate Luther Strange on Friday, Trump went on the offensive against NFL players who have protested racial inequality during the National Anthem, focusing on those have chosen to kneel.
Trump continued on the protesting players with a pair of tweets on Saturday.
And in a Sunday morning tweet, Trump urged his supporters to take action: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!”
Last season, quarterback Colin Kaepernick, then of the San Francisco 49ers, chose not to stand during the anthem. Several NFL players joined along, and others stood, but raised a fist in the black power salute. Kaepernick is not signed to an NFL team for this season.
John Adebiyi, 23, can’t help but wonder if things have gotten “blown out of proportion” between the protest and the reactions to it.
“It was supposed to be a good thing, at first,” Adebiyi said of the protests. “Now it’s more like disrespect. At that point, they should turn it around and maybe take a different approach.”
His friend, Steve Latona, 22, called Trump’s remarks “uncalled for,” adding: “He needs to be worried about some other matters,” including North Korea.
The pair, who were walking to watch the Lions game at a friend’s house, differed on what they would have done during the anthem if they had been in Ford Field.
“I would’ve stood,” Adebiyi said. “I just go with the flow, man.”
“I would’ve sat,” Latona said. “(I’d do it like) most of the players. They’re kneeling for a reason. I probably would’ve had to go against the grain on that one.”