Trump is using yet another image of a wounded veteran to attack NFL players. That veteran is speaking out.
In his racist culture war against black NFL athletes, Donald Trump has repeatedly tried to frame the kneeling protests as an attack on service members, despite the fact that the players are actually protesting police brutality, and their cause has nothing critical against the military.
But as Trump has continued to use these brave Americans as props, many of them are speaking out against him.
On Tuesday, Trump retweeted an image of John Jones, a veteran Marine staff sergeant who lost both his legs in a landmine explosion while serving in Iraq, and who now runs the California-based Workshops for Warriors job training program for vets.
The image is captioned “I wonder what this BRAVE American would give to stand on his OWN two legs just ONCE MORE for our #Anthem? #MAGA #NFL”
As it turns out, Jones is irate about the use of his image to bully NFL players for exercising their right to peaceful protest.
“I went over there and I fought for the rights and freedoms of everybody to do whatever they wanted to do in a lawful manner,” said Jones in a statement to Talking Points Memo. “So if the NFL as a whole wants to protest the flag and protest America, then so be it, that’s your right.”
As far as Jones is concerned, he fought to protect American freedom, and demanding obedience to symbols is a direct contradiction of that freedom.
Added Jones, “So many people have taken that photo and never even contacted me, never found out who I was or anything to say, ‘Hey can I utilize your photo for this?’”
Jones is not the only voice speaking out against Trump’s politicization of the military. The widow of Pat Tillman — the former NFL star who enlisted after 9/11 and was killed in Afghanistan — similarly rebuked Trump for using her husband’s image.
“The very action of self-expression and the freedom to speak from one’s heart — no matter those views — is what Pat and so many other Americans have given their lives for,” Marie Tillman wrote.
Meanwhile, Iraq War veteran and VoteVets chair Jon Soltz criticized Trump for not even understanding the protests he is trying to claim dishonor the military.
“None of the players are protesting the military,” he said in a statement to Shareblue Media. “Neither the flag, nor the anthem, belongs to veterans or the military, anyway. It is the national anthem, not the military anthem. All of the players, and fans, have shown us nothing but respect.”
Attacking a cornerstone institution of American sports culture with misappropriated images of veterans may play well with Trump’s base, but it is nowhere near the winning strategy he seems to think it is.
According to polls, 57 percent of Americans and 61 percent of NFL fans disagree with Trump that football players should be fired for political protests on the field, and 53 percent believe it was inappropriate for Trump to get involved.
If Trump really cared about the military, he would stop his cynical dog whistles and deploy more troops to help hurricane-devastated Puerto Ricans, many of whom are veterans.
It is clear that the outrage Trump is whipping up over the NFL has nothing to do with the military. It has to do with his racial animus and his disregard for anything that inconveniences his authority. And our men and women in uniform are not fooled.