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Activists to protest NFL at Raymond James Stadium this Sunday

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People angry over the explosion of NFL players who chose not to stand during the “Star-Spangled Banner” before games last weekend plan to protest in Tampa Sunday afternoon, hours before the Tampa Bay Buccaneers host the New York Giants at Raymond James Stadium.

Calling the act an attack on “everything we hold dear,” conservative activist and Pinellas County Commission candidate Barb Haselden is one of the organizers of the event, called “Stand Up for America.”

Participants are asked to bring an American flag to display and a football jersey to wear before gathering at the corner of Dale Mabry and Columbus Avenue, where the rally will take place between 1:30 p.m. and 3:45 p.m. The game kicks off at 4:05 p.m.

Wide-receivers Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson took a knee before the team’s game at Minnesota last Sunday. Hundreds of other players around the league did the same thing after President Donald Trump said that NFL owners should fire such players who refused to stand for the national anthem.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he’s fired. He’s fired,'” Trump said in Alabama last Friday night at a political rally for U.S. Sen. Luther Strange. “You know, some owner is going to do that. He’s going to say, ‘That guy that disrespects our flag, he’s fired.’ And that owner, they don’t know it [but] they’ll be the most popular person in this country.”

Trump’s comments alienated many in the sports world, including some NFL owners who were major contributors to his 2016 presidential campaign. But it’s a different story with some members of the public. According to a poll conducted by the Remington Research Group on Sept. 25, 64 percent of 1,633 responders believe players should stand and be respectful during the anthem.

However, another survey, conducted by the Seton Hall Sports Poll, showed that 84 percent of Americans surveyed support NFL players’ right to protest—even if they vary on how they feel the protest should be carried out.

“It’s all just gone too far,” says Haselden of the players’ sit-down, labeling the idea of ‘taking a knee’ to be “very dangerous and unpatriotic.”

Haselden is the co-founder of South Pinellas 912 Patriots, a Tea Party group formed in 2010; the group was active in helping bring down the Greenlight Pinellas transit tax initiative in 2014.

“Before long, we won’t be able to have an American flag in our yard,” she added.

“It just seems like an attack on everything we hold dear … it’s just happening one thing after another, and when it gets to the point where they’re taking a knee so to speak during the anthem, and the sacred honor of our country and of our service people and everything that we fought for together, it’s just too much, and I think there’s a lot of people saying, ‘You’re over the line, this is just too much,’ ” Haselden says.

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Mitch Perry has been a reporter with Extensive Enterprises since November of 2014. Previously, he served as five years as the political editor of the alternative newsweekly Creative Loafing. He also was the assistant news director with WMNF 88.5 FM in Tampa from 2000-2009, and currently hosts MidPoint, a weekly talk show, on WMNF on Thursday afternoons. He began his reporting career at KPFA radio in Berkeley. He's a San Francisco native who has now lived in Tampa for 15 years and can be reached at mitch.perry@floridapolitics.com.

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