NEW BRITAIN - Itâ€™s been a daily topic of conversation at Blaze Barber Shop since San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick decided to take a stand against police brutality and social injustice by kneeling during the national anthem during the 2016 NFL season.
â€śThe topic comes up every day and multiple times throughout the day,â€ť Blaze owner Johnny Turner told The Herald Thursday. â€śIn fact, we talked about it this morning. Itâ€™s a constant conversation.â€ť
Turner feels that the recent decision by NFL owners requiring players to stand for the anthem if they are on the field before a game is an obvious violation of their constitutional rights.
â€śI think they are entitled to their own thoughts or beliefs,â€ť Turner said.
The ruling, which was announced Wednesday, allows players to stay in the locker room if they want to carry out a Kaepernick-style protest.
As the country kicks off the summer with the long Memorial Day weekend, local reaction to the decision ranges from concerns for civil liberties and free speech to concerns about disrespecting the American flag.
For Turner, itâ€™s about NFL team owners choosing revenues over social justice.
â€śThe owners really donâ€™t care. It all goes to the ownersâ€™ bottom line,â€ť Turner said. â€śItâ€™s sad.â€ť
For Pastor Dale Shaw of the Bethesda Apostolic Church, itâ€™s about advocating at the right time and place.
â€śThey are paid to do a job,â€ť Shaw said, who added, â€śAt the same time, they do have a rightâ€ť to peacefully protest. â€śThereâ€™s a time and place to do something,â€ť
â€śI donâ€™t think they should be kneeling at a sports event,â€ť he continued. â€śThey can speak out on their own time.â€ť
Shaw suggested that the ownersâ€™ decision is likely to cause â€śmore rebellion with the players.â€ť What the league and the country need is more meeting of the minds, less talking and more listening, he said.
â€śAs a nation, we have to come together,â€ť Shaw said. â€śItâ€™s like what Bishop Michael Curry said at the wedding of Prince Harry: Itâ€™s about love. Weâ€™re not loving. Everybody is still at each otherâ€™s throats about whatâ€™s right and whatâ€™s wrong.â€ť
Kneeling during the national anthem isnâ€™t a sign of disrespect but rather an act of reverence, said New Britain NAACP President Ron Davis.
â€śItâ€™s about knowing our support for the flag comes from its promise of freedom for all,â€ť Davis said. â€śWe kneel in prayer. Kneeling is not negative, itâ€™s only negative to people who donâ€™t know who God is.â€ť
College football players arenâ€™t allowed on the field until the game starts, said Central Connecticut State University player Freddy Allen. But if he ever got the opportunity, he would stand for the anthem, he said.
â€śI think kneeling during the national anthem is disrespectful,â€ť he said. â€śItâ€™s to honor our country and the people who have protected this country of freedom.â€ť
â€śKneeling during the national anthem is disrespecting the people who wear the stars and stripes on their uniform every day,â€ť he added. â€śThose people are the ones that are making sure we are safe and able to love our lives. Other countries donâ€™t have the freedom we do as Americans. The national anthem has nothing to do with politics, as itâ€™s to honor the country we live in and the people fighting to keep us alive.â€ť
The former chairman of the Berlin Veterans Commission, Tom Chesery, agrees with Allen that standing during the anthem is the appropriate thing to do.
But Chesery, who served in the Navy from 1965 to 1969, has an issue with the ruling that allows players to protest by remaining in the locker room.
â€śI feel they should be standing on the field while the anthem is played,â€ť Chesery said. â€śThey are Americans. This is a free country. Without the NFL, they wouldnâ€™t have a job. Iâ€™d tell them stand or go home.â€ť
Chesery conceded that the NFL team owners were losing money due to the â€śtake a kneeâ€ť controversy. But he said they handled the issue the wrong way. â€śThey are trying to rectify it but they put a Band-Aid on it. If it wasnâ€™t for veterans, there wouldnâ€™t be a national anthem. Itâ€™s about recognizing respect for their flag and how many people lost their lives to keep this country free.â€ť
Information from The Associated Press was included in this story.
Lisa Backus can be reached at 860-801-5066 or Lbackus@centralctcommunications.com.