- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2018

A Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate in Indiana is circulating a petition demanding the NFL rethink its decision to not run a one-page “Please Stand” advertisement that a military veterans group wanted included in the Super Bowl program.

Rep. Luke Messer, who is running in a field of GOP candidates that includes fellow Rep. Todd Rokita and former state Rep. Mike Braun, accused the NFL of “caving to liberal pressure” by refusing to run the print ad from American Veterans and “siding with those who disrespect our flag over the men and women who defend our country.”

“This is a big mistake,” his online petition reads. “Join your fellow citizens DEMANDING that the NFL air the ad.”

Mr. Messer has hardened his tone in the emotional debate, which started raging in 2016 when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand for the national anthem in a silent protest against police brutality in minority communities.

Others athletes soon followed suit, sparking a debate over an athlete’s First Amendment free speech rights, and prompting President Trump to charge the players should be fired for disrespecting the country and military personnel.

During an appearance on MSNBC around that time, Mr. Messer said players have a right to express themselves.

“This is America,” Mr. Messer said. “They are entitled to their point of view. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I support their right to have their voice heard.”

“I think our national anthem is a time to stand up and honor our country, but again I respect those that take a different point of view,” he said.

The winner of the Indiana GOP primary is set to face off against incumbent Democratic Sen. Joe Donnelly in the November election.

For his part, Mr. Donnelly, one of the most vulnerable Senate Democrats in the 2018 midterm elections, said last year that Mr. Trump’s comments were “dividing Americans instead of bringing them together” on the issue.

“While I would choose to stand for the national anthem with my hand over my heart, I know that by and large these are men who care about and are involved in their communities,” Mr. Donnelly said in a statement.

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