News & Politics

Disabled Navy Vet Refuses 'Tainted' Award From NFL's New Orleans Saints

A disabled Navy veteran has declined to accept an award at a New Orleans Saints game, saying that it’s been “tainted” by ongoing player protests during the National Anthem.

According to NOLA, the Saints were going to honor retired Cmdr. John Wells — the executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy — with the Peoples Health Champion award during their game last week at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans:

Wells told the organization he would not be able to accept the award because Saints players continue to kneel before and during the National Anthem:

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.

Wells served in the Navy from 1972 to 1994 and attended law school at night while still on active duty.  Upon retirement from the military, he opened a general law practice in Slidell, Louisiana, to focus on military and veteran law.

The Saints called Wells’ decision “sad and divisive” in a strongly worded statement on Thursday:

We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. 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.

Most Americans, of course, consider protesting during the National Anthem to be “sad and divisive”:

Meanwhile, an official sponsor of the NFL, the Papa John’s pizza franchise, is complaining that the league’s National Anthem protests are hurting its bottom line.

“The NFL has hurt us,” company founder and CEO John Schnatter said during a conference call Wednesday. “We are disappointed the NFL and its leadership did not resolve this.”

The company has pulled the “official sponsor” designation on its NFL television advertising.

“Leadership starts at the top, and this is an example of poor leadership,” Schnatter said, adding he thought the issue had been “nipped in the bud” a year and a half ago.