JOHNSON CITY, Tenn. (WJHL) — Rolling Thunder Chapter Four threatened to remove the POW/MIA chair from East Tennessee State University’s William B. Greene Jr. Stadium if football players kneel at the season opener against Samford on Saturday.
This follows after the men’s basketball team kneeled during the national anthem at Monday’s game at Chattanooga.
The kneeling sparked either support or outrage among community members — one local group of veterans feeling the latter, claiming that the act is a sign of disrespect toward U.S. service members.
News Channel 11 spoke with Rolling Thunder Chapter Four President Bob Phillips, who served in Vietnam as a 19-year-old from Hampton. He’s unsure if ETSU football players plan to take a knee.
If so, Phillips said the group will take action.
“Somewhere, we’ve got to draw a line in the sand and stop it,” Phillips said. “People want to protest and say that they’ve been discriminated…go to your senators, your congress, your representatives. Do not go to the American people and deface our flag, our national anthem.”
ETSU men’s basketball coach Jason Shay said the team meant no disrespect and kneeled “as a call to action and empowerment against racial inequalities and injustices,” but Phillips responded to that statement with the following:
The coaches say they didn’t mean disrespect; they can say that. That doesn’t mean anything to me just because they said that. I fought for my country; lots of Americans fought. Lots of families don’t have their sons or daughters home; they’re still in far off lands.Rolling Thunder Chapter Four President Bob Phillips
The veteran said that he contacted Rolling Thunder’s national director, who supported the removal of the POW/MIA seat from the football stadium. The local chapter had spent nine years working to get it installed and placed it in the stadium in 2019.