Report: Russian Trolls Fueled Kaepernick Anthem Debate as Late as 2018

The second Senate report on Russian election interference was released Tuesday

Report: Russian Trolls Provoked Kaepernick/Anthem Debate As Late as 2018
Colin Kaepernick and Eric Reid kneel in protest on the sideline. (Michael Zagaris/49ers/Getty)
By Evan Bleier / October 9, 2019 10:09 am

Russian trolls at the Internet Research Agency attempted to divide the country over Colin Kaepernick’s decision to kneel during the National Anthem before NFL games, well after the election of Donald Trump, according to the second volume of the Senate Intelligence Committee’s report on Russian election interference released on Tuesday.

Trolls at the IRA identified “race and related issues” as their “preferred target” and “heavily focused on hot-button issues with racial undertones, such as the NFL kneeling protests,” the SIC report states.

Though the campaign was “designed to divide the country in 2016,” it continued well into 2018 following Trump’s 2016 election.

A surge of Kaepernick and anthem-related tweets from Russian accounts hit the web following a September 2017 speech by Trump at a rally in Alabama where he called players protesting “sons of bitches.”

According to The Wall Street Journal491 accounts linked to the IRA sent more than 12,000 tweets about the NFL or the anthem over the final months of 2014 through the middle of 2018. That means the tweets were coming before Trump even formally announced his candidacy.

Only 13 percent of the tweets were left-leaning and supportive of Kaepernick, while the remaining 87 percent had a conservative-leaning message which was critical of the NFL and the player protests.

“A Left Troll account, @wokeluisa, tweeted in support of Colin Kaepernick and the NFL protests on March 13, 2018, prompting 37,000 forwarded retweets,” the new SIC report says. “Simultaneous to this, and in the direction of the ideologically opposite audience, @BarbaraForTrump, a Right Troll account, was tweeting content hostile to the protests.”

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