PLAINS TWP. — Walter Burko describes NFL players kneeling during the national anthem as a “stab in the back.”
Burko and other members of the Polish American Veterans Club in Plains Township refused to watch NFL games on Sunday as part of a nationwide boycott of the league on Veterans Day weekend.
The club’s eight television sets were tuned to other sporting events.
Many club members said they believe that players kneeling during the anthem is disrespectful to both the flag and to veterans. Players have been kneeling to protest what they say is unfair treatment of minorities by law enforcement.
Seventy percent of NFL players are black.
Burko, a Bear Creek resident who served in the Navy from 1975-1979, said he has not bought or worn any NFL apparel this season.
“It just feels like a stab in the back for the veterans,” he said. “This has made me feel like I’m a swimmer and they loaded 30 pounds on my back, because I’ve been a fan all these years.”
Jerome Majeski, commander of the Polish American Veterans Club, said he is disappointed with the way the league has handled the anthem issue.
“The NFL should have curbed this a long time ago,” said Majeski, a Plains Township resident who served in the Marine Corps from 1966-1974. “Stop allowing these people to kneel.”
He pointed out that Major League Baseball and NASCAR aren’t having the same kind of issue.
Dave Pientka, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the 1970s, said he is “done” with professional football.
“It’s a shame what we fought for all these years, and to have this done on national TV,” he said. “I will boycott to the end.”
Majeski, Pientka and Burko said they are ready to give up watching pro football for good if the NFL continues to allow players to kneel during the national anthem.
John Spagnola, a member of the Polish American Veterans Club for 17 years, said he is a big fan of the Philadelphia Eagles and believes players have a right to protest. However, he doesn’t agree with the way they are doing it, and said he is ready to stop watching and attending pro football games if he has to.
Spagnola, a Wilkes-Barre resident who graduated from Penn State in 2003, isn’t a veteran himself, but said he has several family members who have served in the Army and Navy from the World War II era to the present day in.
“Love it or hate it, the flag represents us all,” Spagnola said.
Majeski said the club plans to boycott football games every Sunday if players continue to kneel during the anthem.