- Navy veteran John Wells turned down an award from the New Orleans Saints due to ongoing national anthem protests. Wells called the protests a “slap in the face” to service members. The Saints issued a statement calling Wells’ comments “sad and divisive,” saying they will continue to support the military and service members
The New Orleans Saints issued a statement in response to Navy veteran John Wells on Thursday after Wells turned down an award from the team.
According to The New Orleans Advocate, John Wells, a Navy veteran and executive director of Military Veterans Advocacy, turned down the chance to receive the Peoples Health Champion award during the Saints’ Week 8 game.
Wells said he was declining the award because of the ongoing national anthem protests, which he called a “slap in the face” to service members.
“Although I am touched and honored to be selected for such an award, the ongoing controversy with NFL players’ disrespect for the national flag forces me to decline to participate in the presentation,” Well said in a statement. “I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails. Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”
The Saints said in a statement that they were disappointed by Wells’ “sad and divisive discourse” in turning down the award.
“Throughout Mr. Wells’ media appearances today, he has stated he no longer supports NFL football. That is unfortunate and disappointing considering the New Orleans Saints’ unwavering 50-plus year commitment to honor, support and recognize our servicemen and women and veterans. We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans. In lieu of honoring Mr. Wells, we will use the time allotted for the Peoples Health Champion Award to highlight non-political military advocacy programs and encourage our fans and community to join us in contributing to these groups who directly support our military and veterans.”
The Saints also said in the statement that players have stood for the national anthem in every game but Week 3, noting that “a few of our players did sit” during the anthem that week.
“We could not be more proud of the work our players do in the community and with our military, arguably a model program in the league,” the statement said.
Wells’ refusal to accept the award comes amid ongoing controversy over national anthem protests. This week Papa John’s blamed the NFL protests for declining sales, igniting a feud among pizza chains over the effect of the protests on sales.
On Sunday, a majority of Houston Texans players kneeled during the national anthem after team owner Bob McNair made a controversial comment about “inmates running the prison” over anthem protests. The NFL and its played have continued to meet to discuss ways to move on from the protests.