LINCOLNTON, NC (WBTV/AP) - The commander of a North Carolina Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) post hosted an NFL jersey burning over the weekend in protest of players who recently kneeled during the National Anthem, "The Star Spangled Banner."
Over the weekend Chip Chandler, Commander of the VFW Post 1706 in Lincolnton, and a small crowd burned at least three NFL jerseys, including that of Carolina Panther Julius Peppers and Pittsburgh Steeler Ben Roethlisberger, on the VFW grounds.
The group posted videos of the burning on social media.
On Sunday, September 24, Peppers stayed in the locker room while the Anthem was playing before the Panthers' home game against the Saints. The rest of the team took the field. The following Sunday, Peppers joined his teammates on the field while the Anthem played before their game against the Patriots in New England.
Chandler said he believes kneeling during the Anthem is disrespectful, but that staying in the locker room is disgraceful.
"It's like a punch in the gut for them to choose not to participate in the National Anthem - and it's a disappointment," Chandler said. "We don't care who they're protesting or what they're doing it for. There's other ways to do it and there's other platforms to do this. [Peppers] probably did not think that he was punching us in the gut, but we're telling him now that that is what he's doing."
Chandler says the jersey burning had "absolutely nothing" to do with racism.
"We believe in what they're doing 100 percent, but we just want them to do it a different way," he said.
Protesting during the Anthem drew national attention last season when Colin Kaepernick, then a quarterback with the San Francisco 49ers, declined to stand as a way to bring attention to police treatment of blacks and to social injustice.
During a speech at a political rally in Alabama on Sept. 22, Trump called for NFL owners to fire players who engaged in such a protest. In the days that followed the president issued a series of tweets reiterating his views and calling for a fan boycott of games.
Criticism from players, owners, and fans - and some praise - greeted Trump's remarks.
Chandler said his group is going to remove some of the beers they drink at the VFW that have NFL teams on them. They will not be watching the NFL on Sundays.
"Any team or player that wants to choose to stay in the locker room," he said, "we will boycott."
He said they would like to see an open apology from the NFL regarding some of the protests they deem disgraceful. Until that happens, they will not be watching games on Sundays.