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One of the biggest claims from those who oppose the anthem protests around sports is that it’s a sign of disrespect to not only the country, but the troops and veterans that have served to protect it. 

However, not everyone agrees with that sentiment — including some troops and veterans themselves. 

One of those veterans is 97-year-old John Middlemas, a World War II vet who went viral on social media after a photo was shared of him taking a knee in solidarity with protesting athletes. Middlemas’ grandson shared the photo and an accompanying quote from his grandfather:

“Those kids have every right to protest.”

The photo was retweeted more than 144,000 times in less than 24 hours, which is likely way more exposure than Middlemas or his grandson were expecting when they shared the message online. But that message — that the intent of the athletes’ protest is not to disrespect the flag or those who have served, but rather bring attention to injustice in the country — has proven to be a strong and important one, and people have taken notice. 

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