Bedford sheriff enters national anthem kneeling debate with highway billboard

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BEDFORD, Va. (WDBJ7) Bedford County Sheriff Mike Brown is stepping into the national anthem kneeling debate by posting a message of his own.

Brown used his own money to post a billboard along Route 460, near Owens Market.

The billboard, posted Friday morning, reads: "Law Enforcement Stands and Places Hand Over Heart for National Anthem. We Kneel When We Pray."

Brown said he wanted to do something in light of recent national anthem protests. He said he understands that people want to protest, but believes they should find another way.

"You should stand at attention, place your hand over your heart, recite the pledge of allegiance or if you're in the military or have ever been in the military, you salute," Brown told WDBJ7 Friday.

As a military veteran, Brown said he's tired of seeing what he calls "disrespect" of the American flag.

"When I see the disrespect by sports figures, politicians, owners, coaches, it upsets me," Brown explained.

National Anthem protests started last year when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the song, as a personal statement against what he felt were racial injustices.

"Support social justice rather than disrespecting the flag, everything it stands for and again the men and women who have died for it," Brown said.

Jarett Nolen, a Roanoke resident who traveled by the billboard Friday, said he supports the sheriff's right to put up the billboard, but thinks he's missing the point of the initial protest.

"It's not being disrespectful," Nolen said. "If you allow yourself to think that they're being disrespectful and you blind yourself from the initial agenda, then yeah, you can see it like that and you're gonna get upset."

"The reason I'm doing this is I'm trying to get a movement started," Brown said. "Quite frankly, [I don't care] if anybody does object to it. I could care less."

Brown said he is also ordering bumper stickers with the same message and those will go on all his deputy's patrol cars.