MURRELLS INLET, SC (WBTW) -Dozens of NFL players have refused to stand for the national anthem over the past couple of weeks to protest racism in America and to defy recent remarks made by President Trump.
Here on the Grand Strand, one man is weighing in on the debate with the help of an electronic sign.
If you’re driving down Highway 17, right as you cross into Murrells Inlet limits, you’ll notice a big billboard with a picture of Gerald Breen on it. You may not know who that is, but Dennis Mazzilli said Breen is the reason people should stand for the anthem.
Dennis Mazzilli is proud of his sign. “Here it comes,” Mazzilli said as he watched the billboard change between the other three advertisements.
He’s even more proud of the man on it. “This is my Uncle Gerald,” Mazzilli said while referencing the sign. “He fought in Vietnam. He never returned.”
“He stood, he fought, he died,” the six words on the left of the billboard are Mazzilli’s way of taking a stand against those who kneel.
“People feel like they gotta link arms? No, you just have to stand,” he told News13 Wednesday.
The debate started last year when Colin Kaepernick took a knee during a Packers game.
“What Colin Kaepernick stood for? I’m fine with that,” Mazzilli stated.
But after a comment by the President heightened the controversy, Mazzilli said the initial meaning was lost.
On September 23 President Trump said in a speech, “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when someone disrespects our flag to say ‘get that son of a b**** off the field out right now!’”
Mazzilli says it should be patriotism over politics.
“That flag was here before Trump was president,” he explained. “And when Trump’s no longer president that flag’s still gonna be flying.”
His Uncle Gerald never returned from Vietnam. He received a Purple Heart for dying in combat.
“This is an honor,” Mazzilli said about his uncle’s military decoration. “He’s my hero.”
To Mazzilli, the sign is not only a tribute to his uncle but to all who serve.
“This is a tribute to them,” he said. “And this isn’t no negativity to anybody else. I don’t want this to be negative, because that’s not my picture up there. That’s my uncle’s picture up there, and I would never want to bring any negativity towards him.”
Mazzilli said the sign will run every day for a month between 6 a.m. and 3 p.m. It will then run for the entire day on Veteran’s Day, which is also his Uncle Gerald’s birthday.