Athletes of all colors and sports are following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has chosen not to stand during the national anthem in protest of racial injustice. The reactions to Kaepernick’s protest have been mixed, though it appears that his supporters include veterans, fellow athletes, former athletes and even the President of the United States.
But Friday in Butler County, Ala., got a bit crazy when game announcer and pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church Allen Joyner decided to make a comment about standing for the national anthem.
“If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you, since they’re taking shots for you,” he said. Facebook user Denise Crowley-Whitfield shared the quote on the social media platform and reported that the crowd cheered.
Crowley-Whitfield’s post was shared over 4,700 times and amassed over 50 positive comments.
And then she deleted her account on Saturday afternoon.
Joyner’s comments were criticized by Butler County Schools Superintendent Amy Bryan. She said, “Patriotism should be a part of school events, but threats of shooting people who aren’t patriotic, even in jest, have no place at a school.” Bryan also added, “Threats of violence are a violation of school policy and certainly not condoned by the school board.”
Many who were unhappy with Joyner’s comment, including 22 year Air Force veteran Mark Bender, jumped on Sweet Home Baptist Church’s Facebook page to criticize Joyner’s statement. Bender described the comment as “hateful rhetoric” and denounced it as “abhorrent and disgusting.” His heartfelt response explains that soldiers “fight so that all Americans retain their rights and freedoms to protest.” Bender said that it was okay to disagree with a nonviolent protest, but that Joyner was “preaching hatred, jingoism, [and] American exceptionalism.”
Sweet Home Baptist announced that they stood by Joyner on Facebook, saying that his initial statement was taken “out of context.” The statement said that the church’s page would delete negative comments, calling for the church’s members to remember Matthew 5:38-39.