NFL players have the support of a member of the Greatest Generation.
John Middlemas, a 97-year-old World War II veteran from Missouri, went viral on Sunday after his grandson Brennan Gilmore tweeted a picture of his grandfather kneeling on the ground.
“Those kids have every right to protest,” Gilmore quoted his grandfather as saying.
The image of a World War II veteran defending the rights of Americans to peacefully protest quickly struck a chord with an online audience. As of Sunday night, the picture had between retweeted more than 100,000 times and “loved” almost 300,000 times.
Middlemas’ local paper caught up with him on Sunday to ask him about his newfound fame and why he decided to back NFL players when many others cite the sacrifice of American soldiers as one of the reasons players are “disrespecting” the flag.
“I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grand-kids and everybody else,” Middlemas, a farmer, told the Springfield News-Leader. “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. We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”
Middlemas made no bones about his dislike of President Donald Trump, calling him “garbage mouthed.”
The paper reported that Middlemas has always been about the pursuit of justice. A stout admirer of Dr. Martin Luther King, Middlemas participated in an equality march in Springfield, Mo., in 2013 that he said was the most important march of his life.
But there’s no doubt the image of Middlemas showing his solidarity with NFL players has reached a much wider audience across the world. Middlemas says he hopes his view will resonate.
“My grandpa, my hero,” Brennan Gilmore tweeted on Sunday.