Disabled Navy Veteran Declines Award From New Orleans Saints Due to Protests


NEW ORLEANS – A disabled Navy veteran took a bold stand Wednesday. He declined to accept an award at a New Orleans Saints game due to the controversy over players protesting during the national anthem.

The Saints organization was going to honor retired Cmdr. John Wells, the executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy, with the Peoples Health Champion award during last week’s game in New Orleans, according to The Advocate.

The wounded warrior told the organization he was unable to accept the award at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome because of the anthem protests. Saints players have been seen kneeling before the national anthem and some continue during playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

“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,” Wells said. “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 afterward became an attorney concentrating in military and veterans law, according to the New Orleans Times-Picayune. He was set to receive the award given by Medicare to senior citizens who have made significant accomplishments.

The Saints said in a statement Thursday they were disappointed by Wells’ decision.

“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.”

The Saints statement adds fuel to the ongoing controversy. What “sad and divisive discourse” are they moving on from? Is that a description of their players kneeling? Doubtful. Therefore, are we led to believe it is directed at Wells’ decision to say, “No thanks” to the award?

Each NFL team has protested in some form during the national anthem since President Trump’s comments about Colin Kaepernick  prior to Week 3 of the season. Trump has encouraged owners to punish players who kneel during the anthem.


Moreover, Vice President Pence walked out of a game earlier this year after players protested during the national anthem. He later posted a statement, which read, “I left today’s Colts game because President Trump and I will not dignify any event that disrespects our soldiers, our Flag, or our National Anthem. At a time when so many Americans are inspiring our nation with their courage, resolve, and resilience, now, more than ever, we should rally around our Flag and everything that unites us.”

Furthermore, the Saint players upset their own fans when kneeling during a tribute to slain New Orleans Police Officer Marcus McNeil, who had been recently killed in the line of duty. Admittedly, this was in conjunction with the anthem, but it was not received well. Consequently, they received a chorus of boos while kneeling before a loud cheer when they eventually stood.

Finally, the players seem driven by protests while ratings continue to drop. A recent Fox News Poll showed a declined in approval by 18 percent. Consequently, major corporate sponsors, like Papa John’s, have made comments indicating their earnings have declined and it will have a domino (no pun intended) affect with the enrichment of the game going forward.

(Photo courtesy navylive.dodlive.mil)

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