Swansea man organizes protest to burn Patriot jerseys

SWANSEA, Mass. (WPRI) – A local man is gearing up to protest after some New England Patriots players took a knee before Sunday’s game against the Houston Texans during the National Anthem.

Mark Shane of Swansea plans to gather people to burn Patriots jerseys at his home on Gardners Neck Road on Thursday night. Shane has already set up the fire pit and surrounded his yard with American flags.

“We do not want the national anthem used as a political football,” Shane said in an interview with Eyewitness News.

Shane said he will only burn the jerseys of those players who knelt during the national anthem at Sunday’s game.

“It doesn’t belong in the sports arena,” he said. “We go there to be entertained. If I want to listen to political rhetoric, I will turn to Fox or CNN.”

Players have been demonstrating during the national anthem across the country against racial injustice. Sunday’s protests were precipitated by comments made by President Donald Trump on Friday, attacking players who had previously knelt during the anthem.

“I don’t want to hear anything about Donald Trump,” Shane said.  “I don’t want to hear anything about Democrats, I don’t want to hear anything about Republicans. The one thing that unites us is country and national anthem.”

Patriots owner Robert Kraft is supporting the demonstrators.

“Our players are intelligent, thoughtful and care deeply about our community and I support their right to peacefully affect social change and raise awareness in a manner that they feel is most impactful,” Kraft said in a statement.

Swansea Fire Chief Eric Hajder said Wednesday Shane will not be getting a burn permit for his protest, since it is illegal to burn clothing. It is possible the fire department will shut the whole thing down.

Shane says it will “absolutely” be worth it, even if he gets a fine from the town.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Rhode Island weighed in Wednesday, asserting that both the Patriots players and Shane have the first amendment right to protest.

Protesting racial injustice through the silent gesture of kneeling during the national anthem is a classic example of individuals exercising freedom of speech,” ACLU RI executive director Steven Brown said. “Mr. Shane’s response of burning Patriots’ jerseys is an exercise of that right as well.”