While NFL players are taking a knee, Erich Nikischer is leaving the arena. He says forever.
Nikischer found himself so enraged by several Buffalo Bills kneeling during the national anthem on Sunday that he quit his job of almost 30 years at the team’s home stadium, New Era Field.
“I waited until the national anthem ended, I took off my shirt, threw my Bills hat on the ground [and] walked out” Nikischer said in an interview with WGRZ-TV, a NBC news affiliate.
Nikischer said he has no issue with players protesting prior to the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner, but could not handle the kneeling during the song.
“During the national anthem … the song that is about our country, our veterans that fight and die for us, it’s just something I feel you shouldn’t disrespect that way,” he said. “I believe people have the right to protest; I just don’t believe that’s the proper venue for it.”
Nikischer also posted an impassioned Facebook post about quitting his “cart crew” job, saying he could not “work in a place where multi-millionaires cry that they are oppressed.”
His response was part of a whirlwind weekend for football fans sparked by President Donald Trump criticizing NFL players who have protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, he’s fired?’” Trump said during a Friday speech in Alabama. He then reiterated that view in Twitter posts on Saturday and Sunday.
His comments spurred dozens of subsequent protests in solidarity, like the one that propelled Nikischer to quit.
While some of the Bills players took a knee during the anthem, others stood and locked arms in solidarity. The team’s owners, Terry and Kim Pegula, released a statement calling Trump’s commentary “divisive and disrespectful to the entire NFL.” Across the field, more than 30 members of the Bills’ opponents, the Denver Broncos, knelt during the anthem.
Nikischer, in his comments to WGRZ, said he “will never watch an NFL football game again until this ends.”
He’s also not alone in his antipathy toward the take-a-knee movement. One woman posted an image on Facebook of a poster she said she was asked to throw away at New Era Field that read, “Stand up! Stop the disrespect”:
Meanwhile, a petition intended for NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has been started that calls for the league to make it a rule that players “must stand during our national anthem,” and that “if the players don’t wanna stand then stay in the locker room” until it’s over.