The Saints issued a response to John Wells, a navy veteran who refused an award from the team over national anthem protests.
The Saints wanted to honor navy veteran John Wells, a disabled veteran who is the executive director of the Military Veterans Advocacy, with the team's Peoples Health Champion Award during last week's game against the Bears. Wells refused the award, calling it "tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players."
His full statement, per the New Orleans Observer:
"Although I am touched and honored to be selected for such an award, the ongoing controversy with NFL players' disrespect for the national flag forces me to decline to participate in the presentation. I am unable, in good conscience, to enter an NFL stadium while this discourtesy prevails. Since this award is tainted with the dishonorable actions of the NFL and its players, I cannot accept it.”
Wells also spoke to a number of media outlets about his refusal, during which he called the anthem protests a "slap in the face" to the military.
The Saints issued a response to Wells' decision and statement with a statement of their own on Thursday night. The full statement can be read here, but it reads, in part:
Throughout Mr. Wells’ media appearances today, he has stated he no longer supports NFL football. That is unfortunate and disappointing considering the New Orleans Saints' unwavering 50-plus year commitment to honor, support and recognize our servicemen and women and veterans. We will not allow Mr. Wells’ decision and subsequent media appearances to distract our players and organization from continuing to honor and support our military and veterans. We, as an organization, have decided to move on from this sad and divisive discourse and focus our attention on supporting our military and veterans. In lieu of honoring Mr. Wells, we will use the time allotted for the Peoples Health Champion Award to highlight non-political military advocacy programs and encourage our fans and community to join us in contributing to these groups who directly support our military and veterans.
Our players have chosen to stand for our National Anthem out of respect for the flag, our servicemen and women and veterans in every game since our inception in 1967 with the exception of one game - the Week Three game at Carolina when a few of our players did sit. We could not be more proud of the work our players do in the community and with our military, arguably a model program in the league. Our players have been clear and steadfast in their support for our military and veterans - not just with their words but with their actions - including visits with the military at home and abroad. Just two days ago, Saints players visited the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Belle Chasse in partnership with USAA's Salute to Service Week. Their support for wounded veterans and their families and other meaningful engagement are normally conducted out of the public eye.
The Saints host the Buccaneers on Sunday and said they'll be paying respect to their "military heroes" as they do every week.