STRONGSVILLE, Ohio-- Local veterans spoke out Friday and explained a sign that made a national splash, after declaring they will no longer watch the Cleveland Browns.
The sign outside the VFW Post 3345 states, “We like our Browns. We love our flag more. Your games will no longer be shown here. God Bless America!"
The VFW members decided to put the sign up following a prayer by several Browns players during Monday’s NFL game. Several players knelt and formed a circle on the team’s sideline Monday and prayed in silent protest during the national anthem.
“I am a combat Vietnam Veteran and this hurt me,” said Army Veteran Marty Healy.
Army Veteran Russ Tobel added that he believed the demonstration was disrespectful to all Americans, especially those who have served in the military.
“The anthem means a lot to me,” Tobel said. “It means a lot to me and I get choked up just thinking about it.”
Some of the veterans at the post said they don’t think the Browns players respect the sacrifices many veterans made.
“It’s like spitting on their graves,” said Healy.
But the Browns players said they were praying for unity for everyone and did not mean to offend anyone.
“Respect to all the veterans, respect to the military, we are not protesting against them or anything like that,” said Browns player, Christian Kirksey.
Browns players stressed they prayed for the country during the anthem, and noted the organization has had a long, meaningful relationship with the military.
The Browns donated thousands of tickets to military members over the years, and also host a military appreciation day at training camp where many of the players that participated in last week's prayer during the anthem, interacted and thanked members for their service.
The Browns also honor a group of military members at home games.
VFW Post Commander Tim Zvoncheck says he believes the players should pray at a different time.
“They shouldn’t have done it on national television during the anthem,” Zvoncheck said.
The veterans said if the demonstrations stop they will reconsider their decision.
A spokesman for the Browns said he did not know if the players plan any more prayers during the anthem.
The veterans said the Browns players that prayed during Monday's game are welcome to stop at the VFW.
“They should talk to us,” Zvoncheck said.