The New Orleans Saints are in the playoffs, but that hasn’t changed Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser’s mind about going to NFL games. Nungesser still won’t be any Saints game in person for the foreseeable future, even if his hometown team continues to win.
“I have not been to a game since the protesting,” Nungesser said Thursday (Jan. 11). “I wish them well, but I’m not going to the games.”
The Republican lieutenant governor is still upset that professional football players have been protesting racial inequality and police brutality against African Americans by kneeling or sitting when the national anthem plays before NFL games. Players on eight teams — though not members of the Saints — did not stand during the national anthem during week 17 of the NFL season, which ended Dec. 31, according to ESPN.
Nungesser and others have said the protests are unpatriotic and disrespectful to members of the military and veterans. In September, Nungesser also suggested that he didn’t agree with the sentiment behind the protests — that police brutality against African Americans was a widespread problem in the United States.
“I’m very close to a lot of people that lost loved ones in the war,” Nungesser said. “I can’t imagine what it’s like to lose a son.”
Nungesser first announced he would stop attending Saints games back in September, when he was overseas on a state promotional trip where he was supposed to watch the Saints play the Miami Dolphins in London.
The protests were much more widespread in the NFL earlier in the season, and some Saints players refused to stand during the national anthem before games in September. Others didn’t take the field until after the “Star-Spangled Banner.”
Then, the Saints, as a team, agreed that players who wanted to protest should start kneeling before the national anthem, but would stand while the song is played. It was seen as compromise between those on the team who supported the protest and those on the team who were against it taking place during the national anthem.
Nungesser said he is still hoping for a Saints win against the Minnesota Vikings this Sunday, even if he isn’t willing to attend games in person. He has been at events where he has caught Saints games on television. He also listened to part of the game on the radio last weekend, he said.
“I’m cheering them on, but I am not going to the games,” Nungesser said, adding that the Saints being in the playoffs “is good for the city and good for tourism.”
Nungesser is one of very few state officials for whom attending Saints games and maintaining a good relationship with the NFL leadership actually could be considered part of his job. The Republican is the state’s elected official in charge of tourism and attracting national sporting events, such as the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game, to Louisiana.
The football player demonstrations initially started in 2016 with former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who…