But some in Foxborough say that pride crossed a line when a flag for the reigning Super Bowl champions was flown beneath Old Glory on the Town Common.
Ronald Rogers, a U.S. Army veteran who served in the Vietnam War, told selectmen this week that the display upset local veterans, who, for as much as they love the football team down the street, say they feel disrespected.
“We can appreciate the value and the relationship between the Town of Foxborough and the New England Patriots’ organization. We certainly understand the bond between the town and the Patriots. … We are very good for each other,” Rogers, reading from a prepared statement, said during the board meeting Tuesday.
“However, we feel strongly that the town has shown disrespect to the flag, our veterans, first responders, and anyone that honors the values that this great country stands for,” he added.
The Town Common, a mere three miles from Gillette Stadium, sits in the heart of Foxborough, alongside Route 140.
According to Rogers, the common became a multipurpose space in 1984, when officials opted to allow it to double as a memorial park. Among the trees, visitors can find monuments honoring those who fought in several of the nation’s wars.
“The park has taken on an even more special meaning over the last few decades,” Rogers told town leaders. “The town, townspeople, donors, and even the Boy Scouts have spent their own time and money to make it special.”
He also pointed to the U.S. Flag Code, quoting that “advertising signs should not be fastened to the staff or halyard from which the U.S. flag is flown.”
The Town of Foxborough has displayed the Patriots flag during the weekends of the team’s home games, according to officials, who said it was most recently flown during the Super Bowl in February but was removed afterward.
The tradition started in 2017, The Sun Chronicle reports. Town Manager William Keegan Jr. told the newspaper at the time that the town’s veterans agent was consulted about it and that officials did not think there was an issue.
Board of Selectmen Chairman Mark Elfman told Boston.com Thursday that Rogers made a valid point and that selectmen intend to meet with him and others to hammer out what can be done.
“We’re taking their concerns very seriously, and I would be very surprised if that flag went back up again on the Common,” Elfman said.
“We’re very proud to be the home of the New England Patriots, and we like to display our pride … but the veterans have spoken and we’ll figure something out,” he added.
In a statement, Keegan said officials want to fully understand the concerns and “determine if there are other options that can be considered so that the spirit of the action to acknowledge the Patriots can still be pursued while also respecting the concerns that have been raised.”
Rogers first wrote to President Donald Trump and Patriots owner Robert Kraft about the issue before he made the presentation to the board this week, he said in an interview Friday.
“It’s just been a nightmare being here and being a veteran and not having any way to correct it,” he said.
A request for comment from the Patriots organization was not immediately returned Friday.
A football fan, Rogers stopped watching the Patriots once the flag rose over the common. He made the decision also because of the controversy that swept the NFL when players, protesting police brutality and racial inequality, kneeled during the national anthem, which intensified around that same time, he said.
It all builds on his experiences as a Vietnam War veteran, according to Rogers, who recalled returning home on a flight next to an empty seat, left vacant because no one would sit next to a man in uniform.
“The disrespect that the Vietnam veterans got when they came home was just overwhelming,” he said. “And they’re still out there suffering for it.”
As town officials turn their attention toward what can be done, Rogers, who is optimistic, already has a plan of his own in mind.
During Tuesday’s meeting, he suggested a separate flag pole be erected at Town Hall, where the Patriots and the Boy Scouts can fly their respective flags.
“The cost would not be to the town,” he said. “We could do this. You have plenty of people who have done this here and raise money for a new flag pole. It would just show our respect separately from the veterans and the Patriots — and we can get back to watching football.”