A 97-year-old World War II veteran is being widely praised on social media after a photo of him taking a knee in support of protesting NFL players was shared and liked by hundreds of thousands of people.
Brennan Gilmore tweeted the photo of his grandfather, John Middlemas, kneeling on the dirt Sunday morning while wearing his World War II veteran’s cap.
Gilmore said Middlemas, who is now a farmer in Missouri, “wanted to join” with the athletes who have been kneeling during the national anthem in an apparent act of protest after President Donald Trump criticized players who kneel.
“My grandpa is a 97 year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join w/ those who #TakeaKnee: ‘those kids have every right to protest,'” Gilmore captioned the photograph.
The proud grandson also shared some photographs of his grandfather in the war and on his farm.
“Grandpa has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years. He’s an amazing man always on the side of justice.”
Middlemas told the Springfield News-Leader he hoped the photo would convey a message of peace and acceptance throughout the “whole world.”
“I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grandkids and everybody else,” he said. “When they’d go to bed at night, we’d tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus.”
“I’m trying to say that you have to love everybody,” Middlemas added. “We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”
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More than 200 NFL players kneeled or sat down while the national anthem played during Sunday’s football games, according to the Associated Press. Two days before the games, Trump lashed out at NFL owners and players over the kneeling movement. “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired!” Trump said at a Friday rally in Alabama.
Trump had also urged football fans to stop attending or watching NFL games until all players stand for the national anthem. Former San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started the silent act of defiance last year in protest of fatal police shootings of black men.
Middlemas, who has previously marched for civil rights, told the News-Leader he thought Trump was “garbage-mouthed.”