The Columbus Dispatch – Given his family’s three generations of military service, William M. O’Neill couldn’t much stomach what he witnessed Monday night at FirstEnergy Stadium in Cleveland.
Twelve Cleveland Browns players knelt during the playing of the National Anthem in what they described as a prayerful protest of racial and social injustice.
The Ohio Supreme Court justice, the lone Democrat on the high court, vented in a Facebook post.
“I will NEVER attend a sporting event where the draft dodging millionaire athletes disrespect the veterans who earned them the right to be on that field. Shame on you all. William O’Neill, LTC, US Army, Retired. Vietnam veteran; son of a World (War) II veteran; proud father of an Iraq veteran,” he wrote.
(None of the Browns players, of course, can be accurately described as draft dodgers since the American military draft ended in 1973.)
O’Neill retired as a lieutenant colonel in the U.S. Army and Ohio National Guard and received a Bronze Star for his service during the Vietnam War. He also is a member of the Ohio Veterans Hall of Fame.
His Facebook post attracted well more than 200 comments, some of which questioned the justice’s respect for First Amendment free speech or attempting to draw a distinction between respecting troops and the National Anthem.
O’Neill wouldn’t hear it, responding: “I will not pay to witness the disrespect of the American flag. It really is that simple. Yes folks. You have freedom of speech. I also have the freedom of not paying $75 to listen to you. And if freedom of speech is so clear here. Why not burn the flag on the 50 yard line.”
Look, first thing’s first, I’m not trying to spur a political debate with this blog. If anything, I’m as far removed from this whole kneeling situation as anyone could possibly be. I’m just a 20-something caucasian male who grew up in a middle class suburb of Pittsburgh that has no affiliation with the military. I’m completely indifferent to it all, yet I can see both sides of the argument.
But here’s what I don’t get – how in the fuck did it take this guy until now to give up on the Browns? THE FUCKING CLEVELAND BROWNS. The perpetual shit stain of professional sports. The team that’s gone a combined record of 88-200 since the franchise reactivated back in 1999. Let me tell you something, I’ve been in this guy’s shoes before. I watched the Pirates lose 20-consecutive goddamn seasons from 1992-2012. It was HORRIBLE. But you know what I did? When I was about 13-years old I became a Yankees fan. It was relatively short-lived, but you know why I did it? Because the Yankees were fucking winners. I was sick and tired of watching the Pirates win 65 games every year. My 13-year old brain didn’t need a political excuse to stop rooting for them. The Pirates fucking stunk, and I couldn’t take it anymore.
I feel like that’s what this guy’s trying to do as well, but he’s blaming it on the fact that players are kneeling during the National Anthem, instead. I call bullshit. Bill just can’t take it anymore. Bill’s fucking pissed the season’s over before the calendar turns October every year. Except this time he’s doing himself a service by giving up on the season before it even begins. Kudos to you, Bill. Become a Steelers fan. You deserve some winning in your life.
P.S. – My low-key favorite part of this whole ordeal is the fact that this guy listed his military credentials at the end of his Facebook post. Dude could’ve easily just said he was in the military and everyone would’ve bought it. However, he had to go the extra mile and list “William O’Neill, LTC, US Army, Retired.” Don’t you dare question Bill’s authenticity, folks. He’s official as fuck.