While 368,000 people “liked” Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s tweet supporting the rights of NFL football players to protest during the national anthem, the NASCAR driver’s post generated lots of angry reaction as well.
Earnhardt was just one of a number of athletes to chime in after President Donald Trump’s comments on Friday. Trump said that NFL players who protested racial injustice during the national anthem deserved to be fired.
“Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners,” Trump said, “when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out, he's fired.”
In response, several hundred NFL players across the league protested on Sunday and Monday either by kneeling during the national anthem, staying in the locker room while it was played (like Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers did), or publicly denouncing Trump’s comments. Every NFL team also issued a statement of some sort in response to the comments.
During President Donald Trump's speech at a rally in Huntsville, Ala. on Sept. 22, 2017, he said any player that sits during the national anthem is a "son of a bitch." The president also rescinded NBA champ Stephen Curry's invitation to the White House. Trump's comments ultimately led to more protests by NFL players, coaches and owners during the national anthem on Sept. 24, 2017.Alexa Ard / McClatchy
The president responded to those protests Monday morning when he tweeted how NASCAR drivers would never do what tens of football players had just done.
So proud of NASCAR and its supporters and fans. They won't put up with disrespecting our Country or our Flag - they said it loud and clear!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 25, 2017
But a half hour after that message, Earnhardt tweeted his thoughts on the matter, drawing both the admiration and ire of fans everywhere.
All Americans R granted rights 2 peaceful protests— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) September 25, 2017
Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable-JFK
This is not the first time Earnhardt has used social media to respond to the president. After Trump announced his travel ban in January, Earnhardt responded to a Muslim NASCAR fan in Indonesia who was worried about the ban.
my fam immigrated from Germany in 1700s escaping religious persecution. America is created by immigrants.— Dale Earnhardt Jr. (@DaleJr) January 29, 2017
But no tweet took off quite like Earnhardt’s did on Monday morning. To date, it has more than 368,000 likes and 139,000 retweets, which indicates overwhelmingly positive support.
Thank-you @DaleJr....people need to understand that no one is protesting the flag...we are protesting injustice and inequality....— Kevin E. Walton, Sr. (@worldwide192) September 25, 2017
Thank you, Junior! Nice to know that everyone in NASCAR hasn't fallen under the trump spell.— joan o'reilly (@joan8904) September 25, 2017
As a veteran, I thank you. As an American, I thank you. As a decent human being, I thank you.— Drew Domino (@Salems_Bot) September 25, 2017
It also has upwards of 10,000 comments, not all of which are supportive.
“Breaking: Amid NFL controversy, Dale Earnhardt, Jr. SPITS in the FACE of NATIONAL GUARD,” read the headline on America’s Freedom Fighters, a website “dedicated to truth and patriotism.”
“If your father was alive Boy he would beat the living crap out of you,” wrote Sarge McVey in reaction to the piece after it was posted on the pro-conservative Nation in Distress Facebook page.
Wrote Connie Farmer: “Dale Sr just rolled over in his grave. Jr you were handed your life with a silver spoon. Glad your retiring Nascar dont need you never did. You sure are a disappointment on and off the track.”
While not all reactions were as harsh as McVey’s, this negative fallout is far from the norm for Earnhardt. He has been named NASCAR’s most popular driver 14 years running, but his tweet Monday did nothing to grow his popularity among some fans.
It all started with sitting down during the anthem, which no one noticed at first. Here's how quarterback Colin Kaepernick's anthem protest turned into a pivotal movement for the NFL and its players.Eric Garland McClatchy