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Gun club billboard mocking NFL anthem protests hit with fierce criticism

A South Jersey gun club’s billboard depicting a kneeling person aiming a rifle with the slogan “The only time we take a knee” has drawn criticism for mocking the ongoing national anthem protests involving NFL players.

A driver tweeted a picture of the South Jersey Shooting Club billboard Monday and a debate on social media ensued along with calls to have the advertisement removed. 

“Tell them this billboard is racist,” MoNeke Ragsdale said on Twitter. “Taking a knee is a protest to say NO to police brutality.”

Ragsdale, a member of South Jersey Women for Progressive Change, urged people to call the club and demand the sign be removed.

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“I think it mocks and disrespects people taking a knee to protest police brutality,” said Meredith Meisenheimer, a SJWPC member. “The intent is to move the debate away from police brutality, particularly for people of color, and try to center the discussion around patriotism.”

Meisenheimer said her group has more than 8,000 members on a private Facebook page and was formed “shortly after election 2016 by a small group of woman friends horrified by the election results to work to change politics for the better.”

A request for comment Wednesday from South Jersey Shooting Club, the Winslow Township gun range advertised on the sign, was not returned. The billboard has been displayed along Route 73 in Voorhees and near routes 73 and 130 in Pennsauken.

Wesley Aducat, a man identified as the owner of the gun club, told Philly.com the billboard “has absolutely nothing to do with race. It’s just support for our veterans.” 

Darnell Hardwick, president of the Camden County NAACP, isn’t buying Aducat’s claim. He said he’s a veteran and the sign doesn’t represent him.

“I served in the military and that’s part of what we fought for, for people to have those freedoms,” Hardwick said. 

Meisenheimer and Hardwick said they both supported the gun club’s First Amendment right to express their thoughts on the sign, but thought its members should also respect the right of the players to take a knee in protest.

Hardwick said President Donald Trump inflamed the issue after he goaded NFL owners in tweets to “stop disrespecting our Flag & Country, ” and to demanded they “Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” if a player knelt.

“It wasn’t a big problem until Trump became president,” Hardwick said. “All this is doing is taking away an issue of social injustice and making it something it’s not.”

Bill Duhart may be reached at bduhart@njadvancemedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @bduhart. Find NJ.com on Facebook.

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