James Lankford, a US Senator from Oklahoma and a member of Donald Trump’s Republican Party, has stated that the current controversy over NFL players and coaches kneeling during performances of the US national anthem before games is because of “Russian troll farms”.
Without presenting any evidence that Russians or people who have any knowledge about Russia are leading the heated debates in the US, Lankford stated the following,
“We watched, even this weekend, the Russians and their troll farms, their internet folks, start hashtagging out #TakeAKnee and also hashtagging out #BoycottNFL”,
He continued, saying,
“They were taking both sides of the argument this weekend … to try to raise the noise level of America and make a big issue seem like an even bigger issue as they are trying to push divisiveness in this country”.
The facts of the matter, however, completely contradict Lankford’s wild assertions.
The Take A Knee phenomenon started over a year ago, at the beginning of the 2016 NFL season. At the time, Barack Obama was still the President of the US and most polls at the time predicted that Hillary Clinton would be the next President. By October of 2016, when the Take A Knee protests began to grow further, the audio recording of Donald Trump praising the ability of rich men to “grab them (beautiful women) right in the pussy”, was said to have pushed the polls further in Hillary Clinton’s favour.
Back on the 2nd of September, 2016, The San Francisco 49ers were playing a game against the San Diego Chargers who subsequently moved to Los Angeles.
Prior to the game, San Francisco players Colin Kaepernick and his teammate Eric Reid decided to kneel during the playing of the national anthem to protest the wave of police violence against black men and women.
Kaepernick continued to kneel during performances of the US anthem throughout the season as other NFL players across the league joined in as the season progressed.
A year later and the first NFL season of Donald Trump’s presidency begun. More players than ever have decided to ‘take a knee’ during the anthem to protest police violence against black Americans. This has gone on even though Kaepernick is not currently signed with any NFL team.
Kaepernick and his comrades throughout the NFL are not Russian nor have any connections to Russia. Likewise, players who stand during the anthem, such as Pittsburgh Steeler Alejandro Villanueva, is also not Russia.
Vocal supporters of the Take A Knee campaign such as Jay-Z and Michael Moore are not Russian. Likewise, vocal opponents of Take A Knee such as Michael Savage, Alex Jones and Rush Limbaugh are not Russian.
The Take A Knee debate is quintessentially American in every respect. The issue which NFL kneelers are protesting is due to police violence in the US which has nothing to do with Russia. Likewise, the issue of US citizens using their First Amendment rights to kneel is also a wholly American debate.
Of course, people throughout the world have taken interest in the issue because of America’s size and because of the growing popularity of the NFL outside of the US.
If Lankford believes that international voices should not be allowed to comment on the issue, then he is simply being a bigot and a very nasty one at that. If however, he sincerely believes that Russians are organised a campaign to sow discord over an issue that began prior to the election of Donald Trump, then he is quite simply delusional and irresponsible.