SWANSEA — Mark Shane’s phone has been ringing nonstop for two days, and as he sat on his front steps under an American flag moving softly with the crisp fall breeze, he shook his head and recounted the jersey-burning protest that turned his front yard into a “rally for our veterans.”
“This whole thing wasn’t about Republicans or Democrats or race. That’s not what it was,” Shane said of his Thursday night bonfire of New England Patriots jerseys and T-shirts.
“It’s very simple,” he said. “It’s about the national anthem and the flag. That’s what unites us as Americans.”
More than 100 people came to Shane’s yard to toss their Patriots sportswear into a fire pit to protest players taking a knee during the singing of the national anthem. Veterans sang “The Star-Spangled Banner” around the blaze as local authorities closed down nearby streets because they feared things could get out of hand.
Shane said it was all peaceful, but the aftermath has been “overwhelming.” He has screenshots of threats people have made online — including one from a man who posed the idea of burning down Shane’s home.
“It has been mostly good, but there are a few crazy people who have called, saying I should die or whatnot,” he said.
The idea for the rally came when Shane was at the Patriots’ 36-33 win over the Houston Texans last Sunday. He said he heard boos when more than a dozen Patriots players took a knee during the anthem, and he left the game with “a bad taste in my mouth.”
That’s when Shane decided to make his front yard ground zero for those who wanted to support the anthem and burn Patriots gear.
“This is about pride. It’s about pride in your country,” he said. “I have no problem with people protesting, but just don’t do it during the anthem.”
Shane didn’t burn all of his Patriots gear, and he said he was a little upset to see Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski jerseys go up in flames. The items that didn’t burn were put in a box that he said he plans to send to people suffering in Puerto Rico.
Boston Mayor Martin J. Walsh called the Pats gear pyre “foolish” and slammed President Trump for taunting the NFL over the protests.
Shane said he didn’t want to respond but added: “Tell the veterans who care that it’s foolish.”
For now, Shane said he’s trying to get back to normal. There is little trace of the fire pit, and decorations from the protest are in his garage — flags and bunting befitting a Fourth of July parade.
The Swansea Fire Department ended up slapping Shane with two tickets — one for $300 and another for $100 — for using a fire pit for the “disposal of rubbish” and disobeying orders from the fire chief.
“Maybe I’ll appeal,” Shane said, readjusting his dog’s American flag bandana. “We’ll see.”
Chris Villani contributed to this story.
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