Former Defense Secretary and United States Sen. Chuck Hagel says while he was taught to stand for the national anthem, he believes the current controversy has been overblown.
Hagel, during a visit to Iowa, says he understands the statement by the Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds that she was taught to stand in respect for the flag.
“Well, I was taught that as well growing up in little towns in Nebraska. I believe that personally,” Hagel tells Iowa Public TV. “That’s my choice and I believe that and I still hold to that. Now, that said, we do have a country that gives people rights to express themselves.”
After President Donald Trump suggested owners of NFL teams should fire anyone who kneels during the national anthem, several teams and even some owners defied the president and took a knee during the anthem prior to games Sunday and Monday.
Hagel says while he would not kneel during the anthem, he understands why some do.
“It’s not the way I would do it, but again, when you look at all the problems in the country today and in the world and you’re going to pick on this? I mean, somehow, our priorities with our leaders, starting with the president, are really out of whack here,” according to Hagel.
Hagel has made a couple of stops in Iowa, first to Simpson College in central Iowa and then appearing on a public affairs program produced by Iowa Public TV.
O. Kay Henderson, Radio Iowa News Director, contributed to this story.