A photo of 97-year-old John Middlemas, kneeling in solidarity with protesting NFL players, has become an internet sensation.
The World War II veteran was captured on bended knee by his grandson, Brennan Gilmore, who posted it to his social media accounts, where it quickly went viral.
“Grandpa has been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years,” Gilmore wrote online. “He’s an amazing man always on the side of the justice.”
"Those kids have every right to protest," he quoted his grandfather as saying.
Kneeling became a symbol for protesting police treatment of African-Americans.
President Trump unleashed a torrent of rhetoric after imploring team owners to “get that son of a b**** off the field” for demonstrating during the national anthem.
His comments, made during an Alabama rally, drew loud applause from his supporters.
But they angered professional football players, the majority of whom are black. Many were raised by strong mothers in struggling neighborhoods.
“I’m a son of a queen,” said Atlanta Falcons defensive lineman Grady Jarrett.
Detroit Lions coach Jim Caldwell said, “There are no SOBs in this league.”
Middlemas’ photo was posted Sunday morning, hours before at least 200 NFL players protested Trump’s comments by kneeling, sitting or praying during the “Star Spangled Banner.” Three teams refused to take the field until the anthem was over, The Associated Press reported.
The president also said protesting players should be fired or suspended and called for a boycott of NFL games.
The Missouri grandfather who knelt in his yard was “trying to say that you have to love everybody,” Middlemas told the Springfield News-Leader. “We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”
His comments drew mixed responses on his grandson’s Twitter and Facebook pages.
Some praised the veteran’s actions. Others posted profane and angry reactions.
“Did you tell your grandfather what an IDIOT HE WAS!” one man wrote.
“You represent what IS America, the right to have your voice heard,” a woman posted.