WATCH: Lawmaker who served in Iraq says NFL kneelers can “take your football and shove it”

Rep. Steve Russell (R-Okla.), a combat veteran who served in Iraq, says NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem are disrespecting soldiers who died in battle.

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Protestors can “take your football and shove it,” the two-term congressman said in an interview with The Hill TV. 

“As a combat veteran we didn’t take a knee on the battlefield over some protest or some stupidity on domestic politics,” added Russell.

“I lost men and two women, people of every color, socio-economic background, different religions under my command, they took their lives for these disgruntled millionaires,” the retired Army lieutenant colonel and veteran said.

Congress is as split as the rest of the country when it comes to the protests, which began when San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick started to take a knee during the national anthem last year to protest social inequality and racial injustice.

Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), who was beaten by state troopers in the 1965 march from Selma, Ala., said protesting players appreciate the flag, which “protects us and guarantees us the right to protest for what is right.” 

“Some people said the March on Washington in 1963 was not the right thing to do, the march from Selma to Montgomery was not he right thing to do,” Lewis told The Hill TV.

Russell, for his part, called the protests in the NFL “despicable.” He said players should follow the lead of the late Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman, who joined the military shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks and later was killed while in Afghanistan as a member of the elite U.S. Army Ranger’s 375th regiment. 

Watch the video above to hear the lawmakers in their own words.