Some La. state reps. want to cut tax dollars to Saints after protest; others fire back in disagreement

State Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-St. Francisville (Source: Louisiana Legislature)
State Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-St. Francisville (Source: Louisiana Legislature)
Rep. Pat Smith (Source: WAFB)
Rep. Pat Smith (Source: WAFB)

ST. FRANCISVILLE, LA (WAFB) - A Louisiana lawmaker says he wants to cut millions of state dollars to the New Orleans Saints after some players protested during the national anthem before Sunday's game against the Carolina Panthers.

Rep. Kenneth Havard, R-St. Francisville, said he would like to slash tax dollars, tax exemptions, and tax credits to the Saints, NFL, and any associated facilities that receive state funding.

"This is not about punishment. It's about you shouldn't be allowed if you are receiving tax payer money to be political in nature," said Havard.

The following statement was released:

The very reason they have the privilege and opportunity to play professional football while being paid millions is because someone in uniform died protecting their right to do so. It is a disgrace to the men and woman of this nation and state who have sacrificed so much. Disrespecting our national anthem and flag in the name of social injustice is the highest form of hypocrisy. Our free society made possible by our fighting men and women has made available free education, free lunch, housing and free healthcare and is now be considered socially unjust. It is time the taxpayers quit subsidizing protest on big boy playgrounds. I believe in the right to protest but, not at a taxpayer subsidized sporting event. Do it on your own time.  There are plenty of disabled children, elderly and veterans in this state that would appreciate the money.

Havard says he was so disgusted by the action, that he didn't watch the rest of Sunday's game.

"I flipped it after that," said Havard.

Representative Valerie Hodges is standing by Havard. She says on Monday morning, she asked the chairman of the State Joint Budget Committee to have the Saints' budget added to the October meeting agenda for discussion. Havard says he already has an idea of where he would like to spend that team's state money.

"I am for First Amendment rights, but there is a time and a place to protest. We will not tolerate blatant disregard for the flag and the lives of so many men and women who have died defending our country. I have to wonder, if they will not pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, who is their allegiance to," asked Hodges in a statement released Monday evening.

"If we are going to be funding something in this state, I would rather fund children waiting for now waivers, elderly affairs, veterans, people that will appreciate the funding," said Havard.

But not everyone agrees. Representative Pat Smith, who is also on the Joint Budget Committee, says her colleagues are missing the point. "I don't think it's a protest. To me, a protest would be eating a hot dog and walking around talking to everybody and not respecting the flag," said Smith. She also says sitting or taking a knee, as one would do in prayer, is nothing out of the ordinary. She says the NFL players who did not rise during the National Anthem were simply standing up for what they believe in.

"It started with the injustices that were happening across the country dealing with African American men being killed. It has nothing to do with this flag and nothing to do with the national anthem. It just happens that they are NFL players that have an audience at a particular time where the National Anthem is sung and where the flag is hung," said Smith.

Rep. Ted James, D-Baton Rouge, also responded to Havard's statement in an Instagram post Monday afternoon. The post reads:

Y'all worried about Trump, I'm worried about my colleagues who believe as he believes. I can't wait to get my hands on this damn bill!!!!! Not surprised we will have the discussion. DAMN, I wish we were in session now.

Regardless of those who disagree with him, Havard says he is not taking this one sitting down. "I hope the Joint Budget Committee will look very hard at this and also these tax incentives and credits and it might require a bill being filed and if it does, I will do that as well," said Havard.

WAFB reached out to the New Orleans Saints for a response. As of this report, they have declined to comment.


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