LEBANON, Mo. In Lebanon it's almost impossible to escape the pride the town has in former Yellowjacket Star justin Britt. A photo of him in a Seattle Seahawks uniform greets fans as they enter Yellowjacket Stadium.
"I know his impact here has been huge," Lebanon football coach and athletic director Will Christian said.
He won a state wrestling championship with Lebanon and was a standout on their offensive line, but after putting his hand on Seattle teammate Michael Bennet's shoulders as Bennet knelt during the national anthem before Saturday's preseason game, Britt has left some in the Ozarks with mixed feelings.
"I don't agree with it but the gentleman has every right to do that," navy veteran Larry Hogue says.
Britt is the first white player to show solidarity with these protests. The veterans stress it's not about race.
"It's disrespectful to America and the flag of our country," air force veteran Mike Howard said.
It's a touchy subject even amongst NFL players. Former 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began this type of protest last season, is currently unemployed despite taking his team to a Super Bowl in 2012 and being only 29 years old. Some players have accused the league's 32 owners of essentially blackballing Kaepernick for his actions.
"My dad was in the army so I'm not putting any disrespect to them," Britt said Saturday. "I'm just trying to understand the issues, trying to educate myself."
Christian is a big fan of Britt's, and has the former offensive lineman's Mizzou uniform hanging in his office. While not offering an opinion on Justin's stance, Christian did say he was not shocked to see him show support to a teammate."
"I know Justin's heart and what kind of person he is and what he stands for," Christian said. "He's a compassionate individual that cares about people."
BillyJo Christy is the Post Adjutant of American Legion Post 639 in Springfield, and a retired member of the Navy. She wants players like Britt to protest another way.
"I don't know what to do about it because it is his right but he should be very, very ashamed of what he's doing," Christy said.
Cheryl Clay, president of the Springfield chapter of the NAACP, was happy to see Britt join Bennet, and said it was an important step.
"We won't resolve this until we come together," she said.