JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The president of the Jacksonville Jaguars told the city's top representative for veterans and the military that the team didn't fully understand how much its London national anthem protest would affect those groups -- and apologized for the oversight.
Jaguars president Mark Lamping wrote a letter Oct. 6 to Bill Spann, director of military affairs and the veterans department for the city of Jacksonville, after a meeting Spann had with Lamping, Jaguars owner Shad Khan and Tom Coughlin, the team's executive vice president of football operations.
The meeting came more than a week after the Jaguars' Sept. 24 game at Wembley Stadium in London, where about a dozen players took a knee on the sideline during the national anthem. Behind them, their teammates stood and locked arms with each other, Khan and head coach Doug Marrone.
The kneeling players then stood during the singing of God Save the Queen.
In his letter, Lamping thanked Spann, who served in the U.S. Navy, for “candidly sharing” his thoughts and helping the team's leaders understand how the players' actions were perceived by current and former members of the military.
Lamping admitted the team was “remiss in not fully comprehending” how participating in the demonstration, which occurred in varying forms before games across the country that day, would appear, considering the Jaguars were on foreign soil and stood for the foreign anthem.
He said the thought of disparaging the military, the American flag or the nation never entered the minds of the players or anyone connected to the team, but after meeting with Spann, he and the other team leaders “understand how the events in London on September 24 could have been viewed or misinterpreted.”
He then offered an apology and thanked Spann for helping them have a meaningful conversation about a difficult topic.
For some veterans, though, the team president's apology was too little, too late.
“You all are disrespectful, very disrespectful, and I wouldn’t pay another dime to go watch anything that you did,” Army veteran Michael Odum said of the Jaguars.
Others said it's time to move on.
“I think some veterans will be satisfied with the apology,” said Len Loving, who heads the 5 Star Veterans Center. “There will be others who I can’t speak for that probably will not be satisfied, and I’m not sure they really know what they want.”
Lamping's letter was not made public before the Jaguars' first home game since the London protest, and nearly 5,500 fewer fans were ticketed for that game Sunday.
Jacksonville Mayor Lenny Curry said the letter "shows great respect for our military and for first responders, and I am grateful for that."
News4Jax sports director Sam Kouvaris believes the Jags will see a 10-13 percent drop in business as a reaction to the protests.
"People are still mad. We are a military town. Whether you served in the military or not, you have friends that are (serving). And people have very specific opinions about the Jaguars' actions in London," Kouvaris said.
In the game after the London protest, the Jaguars knelt before the national anthem at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey but stood for the anthem itself.
On Sunday, all the players stood for the anthem.
News4Jax requested comment from the Jaguars and Spann, but the team said the letter speaks for itself and Spann declined to comment.