S.C. Gov. Henry McMaster was one of the first politicians to stand with Donald Trump as he campaigned to be elected U.S. president.
Now, McMaster is taking a stand on an issue that has become one of Trump’s top platforms – standing during the national anthem.
Since September, Trump has consistently criticized NFL players for kneeling in protest, primarily to issues of police brutality, during the playing of the “The Star-Spangled Banner” at the start of football games.
Heading into the last NFL game of the season, Super Bowl LII, McMaster is taking a page from Trump’s playbook and inserting himself into the national anthem debate.
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On Tuesday, McMaster issued a statewide proclamation designating Sunday as “Stand for the Flag Super Bowl Sunday.”
The governor’s proclamation encourages all South Carolinians to stand for the playing of the national anthem before the Super Bowl LII matchup between the New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles, according to a news release from McMaster’s office.
“Standing for the national anthem recognizes and honors the sacrifice of generations of men and women who have chosen to serve in the United States Armed Forces,” McMaster said in the news release. “I ask that all South Carolinians show the world our state’s resolute commitment to supporting our troops by standing for the national anthem wherever you watch the Super Bowl with your loved ones this Sunday.”
In a campaign email to his supporters, McMaster was more pointed in his attack against NFL players.
“This football season we’ve seen NFL players disrespect our veterans by taking a knee to our nation’s flag and anthem,” McMaster wrote. “In South Carolina, we respect our veterans and our men and women in the armed forces.”
NFL players’ protests primarily have been in response to police brutality. The protests have involved players refusing to stand or conducting other acts of defiance, such as raising a clenched fist, during the playing of the national anthem.
The issue was inflamed by Trump, who said players who protest should be fired and used a derogatory term for any player who protests.
One South Carolina restaurant has joined the battle. The owner of the Palmetto Restaurant and Ale House in Greenville has been turning off NFL games for almost the entire season. And that won’t change on Super Bowl Sunday.
McMaster’s release says the national anthem describes the American flag and the bravery and sacrifice of those who have fought and died to defend it. In a Facebook post, one man claiming to be a veteran says that he doesn’t want his fellow veterans to be used as pawn on the issue.
“Don’t use Veterans as an excuse for not showing … we get used enough by politicians as to serve their egos, and tossed aside once our use is over.”
Another commenter went a step further. This person, also claiming to be a veteran, said the lone reason they will watch the Super Bowl is to support the players in their protest.
“I don’t even like football, but I plan on watching to support the kneeling players. I am a veteran, and I pledged an oath to uphold the Constitution, which includes the right to protest.”