Report: Russian trolls stoked NFL anthem controversy with more than 12K mostly pro-Trump tweets

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Much of the online discord around NFL player protests was planted by Russian Twitter trolls supporting President Donald Trump’s agenda. (Getty)

Much of the online ire in the wake of a Donald Trump rant against NFL players kneeling during the national anthem was provided courtesy of Russian Twitter trolls, the Wall Street Journal reports.

At a 2017 rally in Huntsville, Alabama, President Trump railed against players protesting social justice issues during the national anthem, urging NFL owners to “get that son of a bitch off the field right now.”

NFL protest tweets spiked after Trump speech

That rally took place on Sept. 22. According to the WSJ, 24 Twitter accounts tweeted “VIDEO: Trump SHREDS NFL Anthem Protesters!” on Sept. 23 almost simultaneously.

Thousands of tweets criticizing player protests followed in the ensuing days. Overall, from 2014 through 2018, more than 12,000 tweets from 491 accounts linked to the Kremlin-backed Internet Research Agency were sent, with most of them critical of protests, according to a Clemson study cited in the WSJ report.

Study: 87 percent of tweets critical of protest message

The study concluded that 87 percent of those tweets had a conservative-leaning message often labeling protesting players as unpatriotic or criticizing the NFL for its handling of the situation. The accounts cited in the report have been shut down by Twitter after a congressional investigation established their link to Internet Research Agency.

“You want to reach your average American, which is clearly their goal?” Clemson associate professor Darren Linvill asked. “Then talk about football.”

Clemson researchers believe that other accounts linked to Internet Research Agency have surfaced to fan the flames of other controversial sports topics like Colin Kaepernick’s Nike campaign and the U.S. Open tennis final between Serena Williams and Naomi Osaka.

By Jason Owens/YahooSports

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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NFL’s National Anthem Policy Exposes Free Speech Hypocrisy of Right, Left, and Trump “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem,” Trump says, “or you shouldn’t be playing.”

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Donald Trump, who won the presidency in part by promising voters he would stand against the oppression of political correctness, is now taking a victory lap after successfully pressuring the National Football League to protect the delicate feelings of its snowflake audience.

The NFL announced yesterday that all players on the field during the singing of the national anthem would be forbidden to kneel, sit, or show any disrespect whatsoever. Teams that allow players to publicly protest racism and police brutality will be subject to fines. Players will be expected to confine their dissent to the locker room, concealing it from easily offended consumers of sports entertainment. GOP spokesperson Kayleigh McEnany summarized the new policy thusly during an appearance on Kennedy last night:

Players will respect our military, they will respect what our flag stands for and the unity of what our national anthem stands for, and if they don’t want to respect it, they can take a hike and go to the locker room. Now everyone has to respect our military, including multimillion-dollar football players.

The new policy is undoubtedly crafted to appease not just some viewers but Trump, who has repeatedly attacked the NFL for failing to punish the defiant players. “I don’t think people should be staying in locker rooms, but still, I think it’s good,” Trump said on Fox and Friends this morning. “You have to stand proudly for the national anthem, or you shouldn’t be playing, you shouldn’t be there, maybe you shouldn’t be in the country.” Vice President Mike Pence tweeted the news, adding a single remark: “#WINNING.”

Sadly, the NFL’s bowing to Trump’s whims may indeed be a win of sorts for this administration. It will please the many conservatives who routinely complain that the campus left is hypersensitive but embrace the victim role when the shoe is on the other foot. Just take a look at the Twitter feed of Turning Points USA Director Charlie Kirk, a well-known critic of political correctness on campus.

Kirk’s pinned tweet is video footage of him discussing campus culture with Sean Hannity, Eric Trump, and Donald Trump Jr. “College campuses have become a place where the administrators and the elites want everybody to look different but think the same,” Kirk explains. “And it’s all about conformity. If you have any point of dissension from the status quo of liberal orthodoxy, you will be punished.” Just under the pinned tweet is Kirk’s most recent tweet: “Stand for the national anthem!” Talk about conformity.

The NFL is of course a private entity, and requiring players to stand for the anthem isn’t a First Amendment violation. But as National Review‘s David French points out in a terrific New York Times op-ed piece, Google, Mozilla, and Yale are all private too. Yet conservatives see nothing wrong with bemoaning these entities’ internal crackdowns on speech. Indeed, concern that social media giants like Facebook and Twitter are censoring conservatives is now a major concern for the right. There was even a panel discussion about it at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference.

Middlebury College shouldn’t sit idly by while students literally attack Charles Murray, and Twitter shouldn’t scrub all non-leftist views from its platform. They shouldn’t do those things because they have made commitments to the spirit of the First Amendment. They say free speech matters to them, and it is perfectly fair for conservatives to hold their feet to the fire when they fall short of those commitments.

But conservatives are being brazenly hypocritical when they celebrate the NFL’s decision to muzzle its players. The NFL might not have made any commitment to free expression, but its players were engaged in one of the most civil and least disruptive forms of protest imaginable. Saying that simply kneeling for the national anthem is so offensive that it must be confined to the locker room or banned outright reflects the same hypersensitivity that plagues the social justice left.

Ironically, the best defense of the NFL’s new protest ban is an argument most often put forward by leftists who defend disinvitations and shut-downs of offensive speakers on campus. I have frequently seen the following XKCD cartoon posted in response to such incidents:

PoliMath @politicalmath

Guys. The NFL ban on kneeling is absolutely awful and I hate it. It is anti free speech.
It is also 100% in line with the “showing you the door” attitude on free speech you’ve been pushing the last several years.
Please think hard about that.

The government was partly involved in the NFL case, since Trump’s displeasure was a motivating factor. But there’s little doubt the league was also trying to appease some viewers who were uncomfortable with the players’ protests. This is what comes from defending a safe-space mentality: more safe spaces, and not just on the campus quad but in football stadiums as well.

By Robby Soave/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Bill Would Require NFL Team to Refund Snowflake Fans Offended by National Anthem Protests If fans of the Indianapolis Colts are going to be offended by something, it should be their team’s on-field performance this season.

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When Indiana State Rep. Milo Smith left the Indianapolis Colts’ Sept. 24 game, he felt triggered.

Not because his Colts played terribly, although they did a lot of that in a year they won only four games (including the one Rep. Smith attended) and finished dead last in their division. No, it was because Smith had personally witnessed a handful of the Colts’ players take a knee during the national anthem.

Smith (R-Columbus) was so offended he introduced a bill last week that would require the Indianapolis Colts to offer refunds to fans who purchase tickets if those fans are also offended by players kneeling for the national anthem.

“To me when they take a knee during the national anthem, it’s not respecting the national anthem or our country,” Smith told the Indy Star. “I’m pretty patriotic, and it didn’t sit right with me.”

A gross abuse of legislative office? A misguided attempt to impose government force on a private transaction? A potential violation of the U.S. Constitution? Smith’s proposal is all three.

“His proposed law is an absurd assault on the First Amendment because it tackles, if you will, political speech of the players by exerting economic pressure on their employer, the Indianapolis Colts,” says Jane Henegar, executive director of the ACLU of Indiana. “The First Amendment protects each of us from government controlling what we say, and it certainly protects businesses and their employees from government regulation that seeks to discourage speech based on its content.”

Smith is, of course, free to express his disagreement with the players’ decision to kneel for the anthem. He’s completely free to voice those opinions to newspapers like the Indy Star or to post on social media—like President Donald Trump has done, often, throughout the current football season. He’s also free to stop buying tickets to Colts’ games, stop watching National Football League games on TV, and to request a refund from the team for the game he attended in September (good luck with that last one).

Being a member of the state legislature does not give Smith the right to legislate against every little thing that offends him. It’s no better than would-be senator Roy Moore arguing that it’s illegal to kneel during the anthem. It’s no better than the suggestion, made by Trump in September, that NFL teams should fire players who protest the anthem.

Those protests, by the way, started as a way to make a point about police brutality against blacks—something that’s been largely forgotten as the protests and reactions to them were subsumed by political tribalism once Trump got involved.

Conservative snowflakes who turn to government as a means of solving their problems, whether in the Indiana statehouse or the White House, will end up like the Colts did this season—big, big losers.

By Eric Boehm/Reason

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Colin Kaepernick a finalist for ‘TIME’ Person of Year

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XXX IMG_2017_8_29_KAEPERNICK_1_1_0SJFJKT8.JPG

Image: Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports

Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was announced Monday as one of 10 candidates for TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017.

Kaepernick, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, joins President Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller and the #MeToo movement, among others, on the short list for recognition. Each year, the magazine strives to identify “the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse.”

Trump was recognized by the magazine in 2016, and German chancellor Angela Merkel was its 2015 recipient. TIME will announce its latest “Person of the Year” on Wednesday.

Kaepernick was the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem last year, describing it as a means of protesting police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. He became a free agent in March and has yet to sign with an NFL team this season, prompting him to file a collusion grievance against NFL owners.

More from USA Today

Posted by Libergirl

President Trump rips NFL for getting ‘tax breaks’ while disrespecting anthem, flag

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Why is the NFL getting massive tax breaks while at the same time disrespecting our Anthem, Flag and Country? Change tax law!

More from CBS Sports.com

Posted by Libergirl

Defense Department Paid Sports Teams $53M of Taxpayer Dollars to Play Anthem, Stage Over-the-Top Military Tributes

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At a time when professional athletes such as Colin Kaepernick are labeled as unpatriotic for refusing to stand during the national anthem at sporting events, it turns out that the very displays of patriotism and tributes to the armed forces on display at those games were paid for by the U.S. government. So when those teams tell the players to stand for the “Star-Spangled Banner,” it is because the fake patriotism is bought and sold like a commodity.

Stephen A. Smith brought attention to the practice on ESPN’s “First Take” recently, as players have come under fire for refusing to salute the flag. Smith noted that players were not required to stand until 2009, and before that time players did not stand for the anthem because they remained in the locker room until game time.

In November 2015, Republican U.S. Senators John McCain and Jeff Flake of Arizona released a report stating that “In all, the military services reported $53 million in spending on marketing and advertising contracts with sports teams between 2012 and 2015. More than $10 million of that total was paid to teams in the National Football League (NFL), Major League Baseball (MLB), National Basketball Association (NBA), National Hockey League (NHL), and Major League Soccer (MLS).”

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Shut up and play ball: Why America can’t handle black athletes who talk about race

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Image: Raw Story

Sometime far in the future, Colin Kaepernick’s  decision to sit during the playing of the national anthem will be heralded as another example of a black athlete using his or her national platform to draw attention to the continued mistreatment of black people in the United States. Undoubtedly, former teammates, coaches, and journalists will step forward to present their memories — seen through lenses covered in vaseline so that the edges are softened and the ugly stuff excised — in which they will extol Kaepernick for his courage and for his willingness to do the right thing even though he had to know that his act would be deliberately misinterpreted by those whose kneejerk reaction to any critique of the United States is to invoke the bodies of American war dead.

It’s especially ironic that the military is used to somehow prove that Kaepernick is wrong for speaking up when African Americans serve their country in the military at a higher rate — 17.8% — than its proportion of the U.S. population — 13.3% — than do white people, whose proportion of the population is 77.1% but who are only represented in the military at a rate of 74.6%.

More from Raw Story

Posted by The NON-Conformist

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