Ernst Tells NFL Protesters to Go to Conflict Zones to Witness Real Injustice, Ethnic Cleansing

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On Monday, Channel 13 News asked Republican Sen. Joni Ernst to respond to Vice President Mike Pence’s $200,000 publicity stunt the previous day in which, at the request of President Trump, he attended an Indianapolis Colts game against the San Francisco 49ers specifically to walk out in faux outrage knowing players would continue to kneel in protest of racial injustice during the national anthem.

In response, Ernst minimized the worthiness of the players’ silent protests, which began last year when then-49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee to take a symbolic stand against police killings of African Americans that have often resulted in no criminal convictions despite evidence of misconduct. Republicans have largely ignored the actual point of the protests, which gained traction again recently after Trump tweeted that the NFL should fire players who take a knee during the anthem, claiming that they show disrespect to members of the military.

Ernst, who served in Iraq with the Iowa National Guard, suggested that the players — who tend to be black — needed to respect the fact that they “truly do live in the greatest nation on the face of this planet, and if they don’t recognize that, I would encourage them to go out and spend some time in Afghanistan, spend some time in Kuwait or Iraq, go to Myanmar now with all the injustice they have going on with the ethnic cleansing, that doesn’t happen in the United States.”

49ers safety Eric Reid had a different take on Pence’s stunt, calling it an example of systemic oppression.

Last month, Ernst also weighed in on the anthem protesters, saying then that she respected their right to free speech but also suggesting that she might stop watching football as a result.

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Gavin Aronsen is an editor and reporter for and founding member of the Iowa Informer. He previously worked as a city reporter for the Ames Tribune, research assistant to investigative journalist Wayne Barrett at the Village Voice, and in various roles at Mother Jones, where his work contributed to a National Magazine Award nomination for the magazine's digital media coverage of the Occupy Wall Street movement. Email: garonsen [at] iowainformer [dot] com.