“It’s tough:” NFL anthem protests spark conflicting views among war veterans

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MILWAUKEE -- Green Bay Packers players are asking fans in the stands during Thursday night's game against the Chicago Bears to link arms along with the team during the national anthem -- Head Coach Mike McCarthy supports the decision and will join in. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump continued Thursday to voice his displeasure with the NFL and players taking a knee during the anthem.

Veterans in and around Milwaukee offered opinions from each end of the spectrum on the issue: some who are deeply offended by players using the anthem as a platform for protest, others who say it doesn't bother them at all, and one who says he can't take a side.

Over a game of chess Wednesday at Dryhootch on Brady Street, Army and Iraq war veteran, Jesse Frewerd, said he cannot decide whether NFL players protesting racial injustice during the national anthem is the right move.

Jesse Frewerd

"Conflicted is a perfect way to put it. So many have died for our country, like, this cause, and it seems disrespectful but at the same time, I respect (Colin Kaepernick's) decision to do it," said Frewerd.

His opponent and friend, Lawrence Winfrey, says it's clear to him the players are more than just pawns and are right to act like it.

"I don't feel it was being disrespectful or anything like that, but anybody who feels that way, it's their right to feel that way about it," said Winfrey.

Lawrence Winfrey

Jason Murphy is one of those veterans. He grew up in Manitowoc and now lives in the New Hampshire. Murphy, who served in Iraq, said he was compelled to reach out to FOX6 because he's so troubled by the manner of protest.

"So many of us troops have fought and died for that flag. I understand they have their First Amendment right to freedom of speech but there are so many different ways they can go about protesting," Murphy said.

Gene Christophersen, who served in the Korean War and said he grew up hitchhiking from his Marinette home to Packers games at City Stadium, said he also finds the protests to be disrespectful regardless of the intent.

"I understand the selection of doing this in a game because look at the attention they get," Christophersen said, "They do have a cause and it’s a worthwhile cause. I don’t deny that but I think their choice of venue is wrong."

Jason Murphy

Frewerd says he's not sure which way to go as he's torn by his respect for the flag and freedom for which he fought.

"We live in a country where we don't have to stand. That's the founding premises of our country; we don't make people do things," said Frewerd, "It's tough, it's tough."

The opinions also vary on the Packers request for fans to lock arms Thursday. Both Frewerd and Winfrey said they think it's a good idea. Christophersen said he cannot support any kind of political demonstration during the anthem.