A small-town Southern Baptist pastor in Alabama has resigned from his long-time volunteer job as public-address announcer at local high school football games after controversy over comments he claims were misquoted about fans who choose not to stand during the playing of the national anthem.
“If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, you can line up over there by the fence and let our military personnel take a few shots at you since they’re taking shots for you,” a since-deleted Facebook post quoted the announcer at last Friday night’s football game at McKenzie High School.
The post voicing support for the message said the crowd went “crazy cheering” following the speech.
Other social media posts identified the announcer as Allen Joyner, pastor of Sweet Home Baptist Church in McKenzie, Ala. “We stand by our pastor and are proud of him,” one post exclaimed, adding that “what was said was taken out of context and misquoted several times over.”
The exchange was reported as news by the Alabama newspaper site Al.com and then picked up nationwide in outlets including the New York Daily News and Huffington Post. The comments attributed to Joyner were denounced editorially in the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
Another Sweet Home Baptist Church in Guntersville, Ala., responded to readers who mistakenly posted criticism on their Facebook page by clarifying, “We are in no way involved with any story out of McKenzie, Ala.”
Al.com columnist Roy Johnson said he was not surprised to hear that a high school football announcer would use his platform to comment disparagingly about NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s refusal to stand during the national anthem as a protest against social injustice toward African Americans or that a small-town Alabama crowd would cheer in approval.
“But I was surprised to learn that the announcer was a pastor, a shepherd of a flock of Christians — a man charged with preaching and teaching the gospel of Jesus Christ,” the columnist said. “Then I was incensed.”
The Greenville Advocate in Camella County, Ala., reported Sept. 12 that Joyner has resigned from calling McKenzie High School football games. “I realize I overstepped my authority as PA announcer to express my patriotic views,” the pastor said, insisting that the remarks posted by a fan of the visiting team intended as a compliment were misquoted.
Joyner sent an email to the local paper claiming his actual words were: “If you don’t want to stand for the national anthem, please go sit on the baseball field and let some of our folks take a shot at reminding you of the price our military paid for your freedom.”
Joyner said he never advocated violence of any kind. “As a Christian, I would never support unlawful acts of any kind, much less murder,” he continued.
Joyner said anyone who knows him knows “I am not the man I am being portrayed as.”
“As for everyone else, it really doesn’t matter,” he said. “I am being judged by a Facebook misquote, so really I guess prejudice is what I should be screaming.”
Sweet Home Baptist Church is one of 25 Southern Baptist churches listed in the directory of Conecuh Baptist Association, one of 75 associations statewide that cooperate with the Alabama Baptist Convention State Board of Missions.