'Those Kids Have Every Right To Protest': A 97-Year-Old Veteran Responds To NFL Players Who #TakeAKnee

He's taking a stand by taking a knee.

During a rally in Alabama on September 22, President Trump talked about legislative and international matters, but he also criticized the growing number of NFL players who have decided to take a knee during the singing of the national anthem. 

The act of dissent started last August after now former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick remained seated during the national anthem prior to a preseason game as a way of protesting frequently unchecked police brutality against people of color. This form of peaceful protest has gained popularity in recent months (even among peewee football teams).

The reinvigorated national debate over the protest prompted football players and Americans around the world to take a knee in solidarity, and one man who chose to publicly show his support for the players and their freedom of speech was John Middlemas — a 97-year-old World War II vet and Missouri farmer.

Middlemas's grandson, Brennan Gilmore, tweeted a picture of his grandfather taking a knee on September 24, and the poignant photograph has quickly gone viral — garnering over 366,000 likes, upwards of 140,000 retweets, and more than 4,600 comments.

In an email to A Plus, Gilmore says he decided to share the snapshot of his grandfather after the pair discussed President Trump's controversial remarks and the importance of First Amendment rights, which include freedom of speech and expression. The duo talked about how "members of the military, like my grandfather, who risked their lives and fought for this country did not do so because of symbols like the flag or the anthem, but because of the ideas those symbols represent, like freedom of speech, and equality and justice for all."

Adds Gilmore, those taking part in the national debate over the past week often "suggested that we should protect symbols at the expense of the values. Grandpa wanted to make it clear that these values were important to protect and so he wanted to take a knee in solidarity. He thought it was important that we are able to have a discussion about the issues that the players were protesting."

Thousands of NFL players, coaches, and compassionate others took a stand (though not literally) on September 24 in an effort to engage the country in a conversation about police brutality against people of color.

Gilmore says the response to his grandfather's solicitous gesture has been "overwhelming," adding, "he has inspired thousands of people who have reached out to show their appreciation for his service and his voice." 

And though the photo has "provoked controversy" and elicited "negative comments" as well, Gilmore says his grandfather — who is aware and "touched" by the outpouring of support he has received — remains confident "the core values our country is founded on transcend party affiliation, and that despite differences, or country can be unified around the universal truths of equality and justice." 

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