A Facebook group with more than 200,000 followers is planning an event to boycott all NFL games over Veterans Day weekend in response to what they perceive as disrespect to the American flag and national anthem.
“We will be not be watching or listening to NFL games on November 12th in solidarity with veterans around the country, as football players have continued to disrespect the national anthem, the American flag, and everything our nation stands for,” the Facebook event for the group “Boycott The NFL” states.
The group is also urging participants not to purchase NFL merchandise over the holiday weekend.
The event has 18,000 people listed as going and 15,000 listed as interested as of Nov. 3.
“Until millionaire football players stop protesting the National Anthem of the United States, we‘ll be here,” the Facebook group’s page states. “We love football, but we love our flag more.”
The boycott comes after months of controversy involving NFL players kneeling during the national anthem in order to protest police violence and racial injustice.
The issue has also been a focal point for President Donald Trump, as he works to pass his tax reform plan this fall.
In a similar protest last week, retired Navy Cmdr. John Wells declined to receive an award commemorating the achievements of Louisiana residents ages 65 and older at the Superdome during a New Orleans Saints game, according to the Advocate.
“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,” wrote Wells, according to a press statement. “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.”
In a statement released by the New Orleans Saints, the team said Wells had been chosen for his role as executive director of the Military Veterans Advocacy, where he championed the issues of health and well being of military, veterans and their families.
“Unfortunately, he has chosen very publicly not to accept this honor and refused the opportunity to promote the very cause for which he was being honored and distract from awareness we hoped to build throughout our community,” according to the Saints‘ statement. “We respect his decision, he has that right, and we thank him for his service to our country and his past efforts on behalf of the military and veterans.”
The team’s statement also highlighted their “unwavering 50-plus year commitment” to honoring and supporting servicemen and women.
“Just two days ago, Saints players visited the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse in partnership with USAA’s Salute to Service Week,” according to the statement. “Their support for wounded veterans and their families and other meaningful engagement are normally conducted out of the public eye.”
In October, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell penned a letter stating that the league’s policy remained that players should stand for the anthem, but are not required to do so.
The NFL hosts military-appreciation efforts throughout the year, culminating in November with its Salute to Service games.
The league partners with military nonprofits — the Pat Tillman Foundation, the Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors, the USO and the Wounded Warrior Project — to honor and support troops, veterans and their families, according to the NFL.
More than $17 million has been raised through the Salute to Service campaign since 2011 to support these nonprofits, the NFL states on its website.
This year, the NFL will donate $5 every time someone uses the hashtag #SalutetoService on Twitter, for up to a total of $5 million.
Reporter Charlsy Panzino contributed to this report.