A 97-Year-Old WWII Vet Took a Knee to Show His Support to NFL Players

“Those kids have every right to protest” is all that John Middlemas needed to say to explain why he took a knee this past Sunday.

Brennan Gilmore took a photo of his grandfather, a 97-year-old Missouri farmer who served in World War II, bending down on one knee as a sign of solidarity with NFL players doing the same during the national anthem at games.

The tweet went instantly viral in the wake of President Trump’s feud with NFL players, that was sparked by comments he made at a rally last week. The photo which was posted at 10:30 a.m. Eastern time had been shared some 25,000 times by 1 p.m., just as games were getting underway.

So far the photo has been shared 158k times.

“Grandpa has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years. He’s an amazing man always on the side of justice,” Gilmore said.

The actions of NFL players and those who stand with them in an effort to raise awareness about racial injustice started last season by then-San Francisco 49ers player Colin Kaepernick.

Middlemas said he wasn’t trying to fuel any sort of controversy by posing for the photo, but simply wanted to demonstrate what he had always taught his grandchildren.

“I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grand-kids and everybody else,” Middlemas told the Springfield News-Leader. “When they’d go to bed at night, we’d tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus.”

The proud veteran went on to say that he had served with African-American soldiers in the military, and always tried to communicate a message of acceptance. “I’m trying to say that you have to love everybody. We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”

Trump has urged NFL team owners to fire players who take a knee, arguing it shows a disrespect to the flag and lack of patriotism, despite himself weaseling out of serving in the Vietnam War some 40 years earlier. He’s fired off a flurry of tweets since dozens of players took a knee during games on Sunday.

The President’s stance has been refuted by many in the league, including NFL superstar and friend of the president Tom Brady who said the tweets were “divisive.”

Trump later praised NASCAR executives who had threatened termination of any drivers taking a knee during the national anthem at races. Just as with the NFL though, one of the sport’s biggest stars Dale Earnhart Jr. hit back at the president on Twitter with a quote promoting peaceful protest.

Monday night’s NFL games between the Arizona Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys was no different, with the entire Cowboys team and owner Jerry Jones taking a knee.

As for what Middlemas thinks of the current U.S. President, he’s “garbage-mouthed,” commented the WWII vet.

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