In this photo taken Oct. 28, 2016, Johnson Space Center hosted a video shoot for “NFL Films Presents with Katie Nolan.” The segment, which aired sometime in November, brought together two former NFL players (Darryl Gaines and Leland Melvin) and football fan (Scott Kelly) to talk about their experiences in space and with football. Discussion included training, teamwork, and photographing the NFL stadiums from Space.
On September 23, Leland Melvin, former NASA Astronaut, and NFL Player posted this Open Letter to Donald Trump on his Facebook wall.
I believe in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of this country even though at the time they were drafted, their tenets of life, liberty justice for all and eventual freedom of speech, religion, assembly, press and petition amendment ratified in Dec 1791, only applied to a select group of people and not ones that looked like me. Donald Trump I listened to your Alabama rally rant and could not believe how easily you say what you say. We have become numb to your outlandish acts, tweets and recent retweet of you knocking down Hillary Clinton with a golf ball that you hit. Donald Trump your boorish and disgusting actions are not funny. They actually promote violence against women especially when your followers act out what you say.
I used to walk the grounds of UVA in Charlottesville, VA as a graduate student only to watch in horror as those same grounds became a battlefield being trod by Nazi and anti-Semitic worshippers armed with assault style weapons ready to fight to make America White again. (their words). You actually said there were nice people on both sides. People armed and ready to kill other Americans for the purpose of eradicating Blacks, Jews, Hispanics, Mexicans, Asians, Latinas and even the first real Americans, Native Americans to make America Great Again were “nice people”? Verses what you say in condemnation of an unarmed black man peacefully protesting by exercising his constitutional First Amendment rights by silently taking a knee is appalling, unnerving and reprehensible. You called Colin Kaepernick “a son-of-a-bitch.” And said he should be fired. You are basically calling his white mother a bitch. The strong contrast in language for a black man and a Nazi is very telling. Do you have any sense of decency or shame in what you say to the American people that are part of your duty to serve respectfully with dignity, presidentially?
The National Anthem that we listen too has been edited to try not to offend because when Francis Scott Key penned the song he watched freed slaves fighting for the British and wrote this stanza:
“And where is that band who so vauntingly swore,
That the havoc of war and the battle’s confusion
A home and a Country should leave us no more?
Their blood has wash’d out their foul footstep’s pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O’er the land of the free and the home of the brave.”
I guess if I were a slave back then I probably would have done anything to obtain freedom from my American oppressors who were whipping, killing, raping, dismembering, hanging or releasing the dogs on people like me all under our Constitution. In 1814 former slaves fought with the British for their freedom from their American enslavers and Key witnessed a battle from a ship off the Maryland shore at Fort McHenry which inspired him to write what became our National Anthem.
I served my country not in the military but as 1 of 362 American Astronauts that have explored the universe to help advance our civilization. Not just Americans but all humans. I also was briefly in the NFL and stood for the National Anthem with my hand over my heart. What makes us great is our differences and respecting that we are all created equally even if not always treated that way. Looking back at our planet from space really helps one get a bigger perspective on how petty and divisive we can be. Donald Trump maybe you should ask your good friend Mr. Putin to give you a ride on a Soyuz rocket to our International Space Station and see what it’s like to work together with people we used to fight against, where your life depends on it. See the world and get a greater sense of what it means to be part of the human race, we call it the Orbital Perspective.
Donald Trump please know that you are supposed to be a unifier and a compassionate and empathetic leader. If you can’t do the job then please step down and let someone else try. I pray that you do the right thing. May God bless you.
Former Astronaut and NFL Player
Leland Melvin served on board the Space Shuttle Atlantis as a mission specialist on STS-122, and as mission specialist 1 on STS-129. Melvin was named the NASA Associate Administrator for Education in October 2010.
Melvin attended the University of Richmond on a football scholarship, where he received a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry. In 1991, he received a Master of Science degree in Materials Science Engineering from the University of Virginia.
He was a wide receiver on the University of Richmond football team from 1982–85. Melvin was chosen by the Detroit Lions in the 11th round of the 1986 NFL Draft as a wide receiver.
During training camp, he pulled a hamstring and was released from the team. He reported to the Dallas Cowboys the following spring but pulled a hamstring a second time, officially ending his professional football career. He also participated in the Toronto Argonauts football training camp.