Paul Schmidt, commander at VFW Post 2866 in St. Charles, said that the post’s members voted Oct. 11 to no longer show National Football League games at the post’s Club Room “until the NFL and its players show proper respect to our flag.”
“The disrespect that the players are showing to the flag of our country will not be tolerated by our members,” Schmidt said. “Many of our brothers gave their lives and others shed blood in service to our country. We consider our flag as part of our uniform.”
Schmidt said players have the right to protest what they see as an injustice but the flag “and what it stands for has nothing to do with it.” The flag represents the entire country and freedoms we all enjoy, he added. Kneeling is a “slap in the face to those who love this country and who fought to them the right to protest.” He suggested players find a “proper venue” for a protest.
Skip Bollinger, commander of the American Legion Post 313 in St. Peters agreed. “If you want to protest, pick the right spot,” Bollinger said. “That’s not the right spot.”
Bollinger said Post 313, with about 250 members, suggested NFL games be banned “right out of the gate.” The post holds its meetings at Hobos Restaurant at the Legion, at 200 Main St. in the older downtown area of St. Peters. He said the ban hasn’t had an impact on the restaurant.
Post commanders in O’Fallon, Orchard Farm and Wentzville also said their memberships were on the verge of discussing or voting on an NFL ban. Bollinger said he wouldn’t be surprised if any veteran service organization would continue to show games until, as Frank Astourian said, “they get their act together.”
Astourian, post commander at VFW Post 5651 in New Melle, said the roughly 98 post members voted unanimously in late October not to show NFL games on the three television screens at the post.
But other veterans have misgivings about taking that stance. Howard Sardis, the commander of the VFW Post 10350 in Lake Saint Louis, said as a soldier he fought and served to protect the rights Americans have to protest.
“They have that right, just because I may disagree with it, they’re still free to express it,” Sardis said.
Sardis said it was important that each post’s membership vote on issues like this because post veterans come from five different Armed Services from all walks of life, religions, races and nationalities.
“Everybody doesn’t agree on that kind of thing,” he said. “The thing is I happen to be an African-American, so I may have a different opinion than the average white guy,” Sardis said.
He retired after 30 years as a Missouri Highway Patrol officer and was a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army military police. He has been the post commander since 2012.
“In my opinion, they [those wanting to ban the games] cannot see themselves in the situation where they would have that problem with police,” he said. But he can appreciate the predicament of some. “It could happen to me. Am I next?” he asked.
Sardis brought up the issue for discussion at a post meeting at the Lake Saint Louis Community Association’s office in Lake Saint Louis. Before the meeting, he said, “I kind of dread it.”
He said the post tends to shy away from topics and instead concentrates on helping veterans with their problems.
“We did discuss it,” he said later. “We had different opinions on the subject. It got a little bit heated because some people are very passionate, you know, but it was a productive conversation with the group. We finished the meeting, went upstairs and bought us a few drinks and stuff, and went on our way.”
The post meets in a downstairs room at the association’s office and sometimes uses the association’s upstairs lounge.
What are veterans and post attendees watching instead of the NFL? St. Louis Blues hockey and [in season] Cardinals baseball are popular on the three screens at the New Melle post, Astourian said.
“It’s like a mini-sports bar,” he said, adding, “they can watch ladies football, we just don’t watch NFL games.”