Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick is facing heat, particularly from Republicans, over his condemnation of America’s growing imperialism and “terrorism against Black and Brown people.”
Kaepernick, a pro-athlete-turned-activist, ruffled feathers with his response to the U.S drone strike that killed top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani early on Jan. 3. The strike, ordered by President Donald Trump, has drawn strong opposition from Democrats and others amid heightened tensions in the Middle East.
“There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism,” Kaepernick, 32, wrote in a pair of tweets Saturday, without mentioning Iran or Soleimani’s death directly.
“America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad,” he added. “America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the non white world.”
Kaepernick’s criticism didn’t sit well with top Republicans, including South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, who smeared Kaeperick as a “loser — on and off the field.”
“It’s un-American,” Graham said during a weekend appearance on Fox News’ “Sunday Morning Futures.” “He’s a racist. If you are looking for racism in America, Mr. Kaepernick, look in the mirror.”
The South Carolina senator further argued that Kaepernick “has no idea what” Iran and its regimes have done to U.S. troops overseas, adding “your country is not the problem — it’s the Iranians.”
“You’re so blinded by your hatred of Trump that you can’t see the difference between who we are and who the Ayatollah is,” Graham continued. “Pretty sad.”
This isn’t the first time the right and fellow “patriots” have come out against the former San Francisco 49er. In 2016, Kaepernick drew backlash when he started kneeling during the national anthem as a way of protesting racism and police brutality in America.
The former NFL player, who led his team to the Super Bowl in 2013 and was once the second-highest-paid quarterback in the league, has not held a job since that season, however, after reportedly being blackballed by NFL leadership.
Kaepernick’s rebuke came after Soleimani, who was considered one of Iran’s most powerful officials, was killed in an airstrike at Baghdad’s international airport last week. U.S. officials have defended the move, saying the general was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats [and] U.S. service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has since responded to the attack, warning that “harsh retaliation is waiting” for the U.S.
Since the weekend, Kaepernick’s tweets have been shared more than 22,000 times and garnered over 43,000 responses, with many expressing support. Others rushed to his defense after Graham’s harsh words.
“‘He’s a racist. If you’re looking for racism in America, Mr. Kaepernick, look in the mirror,'” one user tweeted, quoting the conservative senator. “So in other words, when one speaks out against real racism in America, that makes them a ‘racist’? And People actually vote for these idiots?”
Meanwhile, Trump has doubled down on the contested air strike and has warned Iran against retaliating against the U.S. The president also vowed to target 52 Iranian sites — including sites of cultural significance in the ancient nation, which could be a war crime — should Iran act on its threats to retaliate. The number 52 was chosen as symbolic of the 52 American hostages Iran seized from the U.S. Embassy in Tehran on Nov. 4, 1979, leading to a 444-day crisis that has affected U.S.-Iran relations to this day.
On Monday Iranian President Hassan Rouhani responded to Trump’s threat via Twitter, saying, “Those who remember the number 52 should also remember the number 290. #IR655,” references to the 290 civilians killed when U.S. missiles shot down an Iranian jetliner on Iran Air Flight 655 over the Persian Gulf in 1988. The United States would go on to admit the act was a “terrible human tragedy” and pay a settlement of $131.8 million to Iran in 1998.
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