A Chicago firefighter has come under fire from many of his own after taking a knee during the national anthem ahead of a memorial football game honoring a fallen officer and CFD rescue diver, who were both killed in the line of duty.
The game between Chicago’s fire and police departments took place Saturday to raise funds for families of fallen CFD rescue diver Juan Bucio and police Cmdr. Paul Bauer.
Pictures on Facebook showed a firefighter, who played in the game, taking a knee during the national anthem. The move is part of a national movement to protest police brutality that has swept through the NFL. President Donald Trump rescinded an invite to Super Bowl champs the Philadelphia Eagles over the dispute and the league introduced a new policy.
“We were honoring both a fallen firefighter and a fallen police officer in this game,” Kevin Graham, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 7, told NBC 5. “I think he should have kept that mind when he decide he was going to make a political statement, if in fact that’s what he was going to do.”
Graham said while he respects the right to free speech, he thought the move showed “a lack of judgment.”
And he wasn’t alone.
A Chicago police sergeant who wished to remain anonymous said that the game was the “wrong game” for the move.
"I myself, being an African American male, can sympathize with the movement that this kneeling during football games has come to represent, but I truly believe the firefighter chose the wrong game to display his protest,” he told NBC 5.
A spokesperson for the Chicago Fire Department said the actions “may have been distasteful to many, but he was within his first amendment rights and not subject to department discipline while protesting during any off-duty event and not in uniform.”
Father Michael Pfleger defended the firefighter, writing on Facebook that “we must not be intimidated from expressing our freedom.”
The photo sparked an uproar on social media, with many calling for the firefighter’s firing.
The firefighter could not be reached for comment and as of Thursday he remained on the roster for CFD’s football team.