A 97-year-old WWII veteran has knelt in his backyard to join NFL players who protested during the national anthem on Sunday.
- John Middlemas kneels in solidarity with NFL protesters
- WWII veteran believes NFL players have right to protest
- Man labelled American hero for taking stand
Over the weekend, about 200 people including players, coaches and some owners participated in a silent protest following a spat by US President Donald Trump, who suggested NFL players who knelt during the anthem was "a son of a bitch" who should be "fired".
In the past NFL players have dropped to one knee during the pre-game national anthem to protest against police brutality and race inequality.
John Middlemas dropped to his knee because, "Those kids have a right to protest". His grandson, Brennan Gilmore, posted a picture to Twitter and the veteran has since been dubbed an American hero.
Mr Gilmore wrote on social media his grandfather had been a civil rights movement ally for many years.
"He's an amazing man always on the side of justice," he wrote.
Mr Middlemas felt close to the cause because he worked on submarines with African-American servicemen who were footballers.
He worked as an electronics technician in the US Navy and served in USS Greenfish in 1959 during his 21 years of service.
Mr Middlemas' stand came as the hashtag #takeaknee began trending on Twitter following Mr Trump's comments.
Trump claims it's nothing to do with race
The President said his comments calling for players to be fired had nothing to do with race, but instead respect for the American flag and anthem.
"This has nothing to do with race. I never said anything about race. This has nothing to do with race or anything else," he told reporters.
"This has to do with respect for our country and respect for our flag."
In a tweet on Sunday morning (local time) Mr Trump also suggested fans boycotted games to teach players who protested during the anthem a lesson.
"NFL attendance and ratings are WAY DOWN. Boring games yes, but many stay away because they love our country. League should back US," he tweeted.
Mr Gilmore said his grandfather's protest was to defend the values and ideas behind the flag and anthem.
At Sunday's game players linked arms in solidarity and some players even stayed off the field until the anthem had played.
In 2016 former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the pre-game national anthem and instead bent down on one knee to protest against police violence against African-Americans.
Others have since followed Kaepernick's lead.
Mr Gilmore's post of his grandfather had been retweeted 158,000 times and liked by 415,000 Twitter users.
People praised Mr Middlemas for taking a stand, with many thanking him for his service.