Those who criticize NFL players’ protests during the national anthem often argue that the gesture is disrespectful to American military veterans.
But one veteran has heard enough of the debate and is speaking out for himself.
“I’m tired of random people on the internet speaking for me,” Benjamin L. Corey, an Air Force vet who describes himself as a progressive Christian, wrote in an emotional blog post for Patheos.com. “I have a voice, and I am capable of using it.”
Corey, who is a public speaker and author of several religious books, has been openly critical of conservative Christians who back President Donald Trump, often pointing out the contradicting values on Twitter.
Wondering if those who think God picked Trump also think that God keeps picking Obamacare? Because he sure seems to be protecting it.
— Benjamin L Corey (@BenjaminLCorey) July 28, 2017
I believe in religious freedom... but I do not believe in religious rule. https://t.co/TYU8EwU3zX
— Benjamin L Corey (@BenjaminLCorey) June 12, 2017
Just a reminder that on the #NationalDayofPrayer they voted to take healthcare away from 24 million people.
I bet God can really hear us.
— Benjamin L Corey (@BenjaminLCorey) May 4, 2017
So when the debate surrounding the protests inspired by former San Francisco 49ers star Colin Kaepernick was thrust back into the national spotlight, Corey called out the conservatives who said taking a knee during the national anthem was disrespectful to military veterans like Corey.
“What I need those of you who claim taking a knee disrespects my sacrifice to hear, is this,” Corey wrote. “Instead of disrespected, I feel my sacrifice deeply honored every single time I see a football player take a knee ― because that represents the freedom of speech and expression that I gave so much of myself to uphold.
“In fact, nothing honors my sacrifice more than the public exercise of these core freedoms.”
The kneeling protests started in 2016 when Kaepernick began taking a knee during the national anthem in response to the spike in police shootings of black people. Since then, gestures made during the anthem are seen as a show of solidarity with Kaepernick and the fight against racial injustice.
Trump reignited the debate over the kneeling protests last week when he called for fans to boycott games and asked NFL team owners to fire players who participated in such displays. The president has since tweeted relentlessly against NFL players, denouncing the gesture as disrespectful of the flag and veterans.
The issue of kneeling has nothing to do with race. It is about respect for our Country, Flag and National Anthem. NFL must respect this!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
As a veteran himself, Corey argued that the ones being disrespectful are actually the people who insult the individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to peaceful protest.
Corey explained on Patheos:
When you vilify and harass someone for the peaceful exercise of their rights, and when you participate in a public campaign to harm or end their careers simply because they are using the very rights veterans like myself have sacrificed for, you disrespect me.
You insult me. You dishonor me.
You exploit me for your own cause.
To read Corey’s take on the kneeling protests and his response to those who oppose it, read his full blog on Patheos.com here.
This article originally appeared on HuffPost.