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WWII Vet, 97, Takes a Knee to Support NFL Protests

Photo of John Middlemas, 97-year-old WWII veteran, taking a knee in support of NFL protests goes viral on Twitter.
97-year-old WWII veteran John Middlemas "takes a knee" in support of protesting NFL players.
97-year-old WWII veteran John Middlemas "takes a knee" in support of protesting NFL players.Maile Auterson

The photo of a 97-year-old WWII veteran kneeling in solidarity to show support for protesting football players has gone viral on Twitter.

Brennan Gilmore posted the photo of his grandfather, John Middlemas, around 7:30 a.m. Sunday before National Football League players knelt during the national anthem.

“My grandpa is a 97-year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join (with) those who #TakeaKnee: ‘those kids have every right to protest,’” Gilmore wrote as a caption on the tweet.

As of Monday, the photo had been shared more than 140,000 times and “liked” by more than 377,000 users.

The proud grandson tweeted a few hours later: “Grandpa has really been an ally to the civil rights movement for many years. He’s an amazing man always on the side of justice.”

Gilmore and his grandfather were discussing the recent comments Trump made against NFL athletes when he decided to share the message, he told NBC news.

"I tweeted thinking it was pretty important, he served for 21 years including WWII," Gilmore said. "No matter what differences we have, we have the right for free speech and what he fought for.”

Middlemas is a Christian who has always valued social justice, Gilmore said, and taught his family about leaders such as Martin Luther King Jr.

"The photo is a big surprise to some people, but not to the 32 grandchildren he has," Gilmore said.

Middlemas, a farmer from Willard, Missouri, told The Springfield News-Leader he wanted to spread a message “that you have to love everybody,” and added: “We don’t kill people. We want to make people live.”

Colin Kaepernick, a former quarterback for San Francisco 49ers, pioneered the movement last year in protest against racial oppression and police brutality.