A Nassau bagpipe band has passed on the Jets’ invite to play during halftime over NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem, officials said Friday.
A Jets group sales representative asked the Nassau County Firefighters Pipes and Drums Band early this week to perform at the Nov. 2 game against the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey, said manager Bobby Hughes, an original member of the band and an East Meadow volunteer firefighter. The Nassau group would have been part of the Jets First Responders Night, which honors police officers, nurses, firefighters and other emergency workers.
“We don’t feel we belong there,” said Hughes, a longtime Jets season ticket holder. “We cannot in good conscience go there with what the NFL is allowing their employees to do.”
A Jets official declined to comment.
None of the Jets players have knelt, but they have locked arms during the national anthem as a show of solidarity against President Donald Trump’s calls for team owners to fire those who kneel. The controversy started when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt for the anthem to protest police treatment of African-Americans.
“This is nothing against the Jets,” Hughes said. “We’re all for free speech. We’re all for the right to peacefully protest. But we’re also for our national anthem, our flag and our nation . . . so we’re not going to support the NFL when we feel they’re not doing the right thing.”
Hughes said the Jets’ representative left him a voicemail saying he understood.
The band shared the decision on its Facebook page and by Friday it had about 1,200 likes — and only one angry emoji.
The bagpipers and drummers march in parades and other public events, and since the group’s inception in 1985, it has played at three Jets games. Each bagpipe has a small U.S. flag attached to it, and the band’s patch has the flag, too.
Among the 40 or so band members are military veterans and first responders, the band manager said.
When members met Wednesday, a few disagreed about passing up on the Jets, but the ones who had strong opinions were the ones who disagreed with the NFL, Hughes said: “No one was fighting to go.”With Calvin Watkins