INDIANAPOLIS, Ind.-- Before Super Bowl LII can kick off Sunday night in Minneapolis, representatives of the Philadelphia Eagles and the New England Patriots will meet at mid-field to toss a coin and determine which team will start with the ball.
Present to serve witness to the coin flip and burnish the National Football League’s battered reputation when it comes to standing or kneeling during the National Anthem will be a Hoosier hero whose own patriotism was literally paid for in blood.
Sergeant Sammy L. Davis, a recipient of the Congressional Medal of Honor for his lifesaving exploits during the Vietnam War, will join 14 other wearers of the Medal to toss the coin and salute the flag during the Star Spangled Banner as the NFL utilizes its worldwide stage to counter the anger of disgruntled fans who observed players peacefully kneeling amid silent protests during the regular season.
“With the problem that the NFL has had with some of their players kneeling during the National Anthem, you can either ignore it and just stay away from it or you can try to be involved in it and try to change it and you know my motto is, ‘You don’t lose until you quit trying,’ and so we’re going to go up there and talk to the players and try to explain to them why it's inappropriate to kneel during our National Anthem.”
Vice President Mike Pence walked out of an Indianapolis Colts game at Lucas Oil Stadium this past October when some San Francisco 49ers players knelt during the anthem.
President Trump later said Alabama political rally, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get the son of a b**** off the field right now. Out. He’s fired. He’s fired!’”
Trump also took a veiled swipe at the kneeling movement during his recent State of the Union address.
Many NFL players, even those who didn’t kneel, defended the right to peaceful protect.
“It's about exercising your freedom and your right for what you believe in,” Colts safety Darius Butler said after the 49ers game.
Davis said he has tossed the coin to start other NFL games.
“It’s a phenomenal feeling to be out there with men who are doing their job and I was very proud of all of them and hopefully I will very proud of these men, too.
“The majority of them I highly respect. There’s a couple of them that I’ve got to talk to yet but you don’t lose until you quit trying and I’m going to express to them why in my heart it's inappropriate to kneel during the National Anthem.”
The man who will actually toss the coin will be World War II veteran Hershel “Woody” Williams, who was honored for bravery at the Battle of Iwo Jima 73 years ago this month.
“The NFL is proud to honor our Nation’s heroes at Super Bowl LII,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a news release.
The statement went on to reaffirm that, “the NFL’s unwavering support of veterans, active duty service members and their families is deeply embedded as a Super Bowl tradition.”
In 2015, U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona issued a joint report that found, “the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015.”
The report claimed $6.8 million was spent on events such as on-field color guard participation, swearing in ceremonies, National Anthem performances, flag events and hometown hero and wounded warrior tributes.
Sgt. Davis, whose medal citation detailed parallel portions of the storyline of the 1994 Tom Hanks movie, “Forrest Gump,” sees his role, and anticipated Super Bowl participation, as a medal recipient to be a living embodiment of the courage displayed by all U.S. servicemen and women.
“I hope it encourages America to stand up and be involved. If you see something that you don’t agree with, do you turn your back and walk off or do you stand up and be involved in it? That’s what America’s about, the stand up and be involved and change it or at least explain why you feel this way in your heart,” said Davis.