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Going viral: WWII veteran takes knee to support black NFL players

Gesture was started in 2016 by quarterback Colin Kaepernick

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WILLARD, Mo. – A photo of a 97-year-old Missouri man kneeling to show solidarity with black football players has been shared thousands of times as his message of peace and acceptance spreads across the internet.

The photo of John Middlemas was posted to Twitter by a younger relative at about 9:30 a.m., a few hours before numerous National Football League players knelt while the national anthem was played.

"My grandpa is a 97 year-old WWII vet & Missouri farmer who wanted to join (with) those who #Takeaknee: 'those kids have every right to protest,'" wrote Brennan Gilmore as a caption to the photo of Middlemas.

By 4 p.m., with many NFL games underway, the post had been shared more than 49,000 times and "liked" by more than 119,000 accounts.