WWII veteran, 97, kneels in support of protesting athletes

A 97-year-old World War II veteran from Missouri has kneeled in support of protesting NFL players, saying the athletes “have every right to protest.”

The picture of John Middlemas on one knee and supporting the athletes has become a viral social media sensation.

The vet’s photo was taken and posted with the #TakeAKnee hashtag by his grandson, Brennan Gilmore, who quoted his 97-year-old grandfather saying, “Those kids have every right to protest.”

Middlemas has long fought for social justice, supported the civil rights movement and working alongside black servicemen when in the military, the Springfield News-Leader reported.

"I wanted to communicate what I always told to my grandkids and everybody else," Middlemas told the publication about his support for the athletes. "When they'd go to bed at night, we'd tell the kids we wanted to be like Jesus."

“I'm trying to say that you have to love everybody," he added. “We don't kill people. We want to make people live."

The controversy over athletes taking a knee has reached its peak on Sunday following President Trump’s attacks on those kneeling during the national anthem.

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem,” Trump tweeted Saturday.

“If not, YOU'RE FIRED. Find something else to do!” he added.

On Sunday, the president doubled-down on the issue, tweeting: “If NFL fans refuse to go to games until players stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, you will see change take place fast. Fire or suspend!

“NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back U.S.”

Veterans and family members of U.S. servicemen who support the movement said they are acting out of love to the country.

“My hand was over my heart because I love this country and I have family members, including my father, who bled for this country, and who continue to serve,” Bruce Maxwell, Oakland A’s rookie catcher and the first MLB player to take a knee during the anthem, told the San Francisco Chronicle on Sunday.

“I am and forever will be an American citizen and grateful to be here, but my kneeling is what's getting the attention, and I'm kneeling for the people who don't have a voice.”