Before his “Sunday Night Football” game against the Atlanta Falcons, New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady made a gesture toward military members.
Two hundred members of the military attended the game as the Patriots’ special guests, CBS Boston reported.
Patriots player Joe Cardona, an active member of the Navy, came up with the plan.
Many of them were high-fived by Brady and wide receiver Chris Hogan.
— SNF on NBC (@SNFonNBC) October 23, 2017
“Joe [Cardona] really started that and the team really jumped in,” coach Bill Belichick said, NESN reported. “We’re happy to have them here. Obviously proud of the job they do for us and give us the opportunity to do what we do. It will be a great night to recognize them and they certainly deserve it. They’re the real heroes.”
“It’s a number that far exceeded expectations,” Cardona told ESPN. “It was a collaborative effort. I was talking to Matt Slater, we were thinking of ways to reach out, especially to our local military community, and show how much we value them. My point of view was, ‘Let’s give these men and women the experience of coming to a big game.’ Let’s get them a personal feel, them being our personal guests, guests of the team.”
— Raul Martinez (@RaulNBCBoston) October 22, 2017
Cardona said that he thinks the gesture is mutually beneficial.
“One percent of the population in the United States raises their hand and swears to protect and defend the constitution,” Cardona added. “With such a small number of people serving now in our great, all-volunteer force, it’s become more of a divide between the civilian world and military world. So one personal goal of mine is to bridge that gap and also the narrow divide and mentality between a war fighter and a professional athlete where performance is so important. Also, the brotherhood between those of us in the locker room is very similar to those many units around the country that are serving all over the world.”
President Donald Trump, Vice President Mike Pence, and others have criticized NFL players who kneel during the national anthem, saying the move is disrespectful towards veterans and the American flag.
In a recent statement, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell made it clear that he wants players to stand, but the league has not issued a new rule to enforce his wishes.
“Like many of our fans, we believe that everyone should stand for the National Anthem. It is an important moment in our game. We want to honor our flag and our country, and our fans expect that of us. We also care deeply about our players and respect their opinions and concerns about critical social issues. The controversy over the Anthem is a barrier to having honest conversations and making real progress on the underlying issues. We need to move past this controversy, and we want to do that together with our players,” his statement read.