The day before President Trump blasted Nike for the “terrible message” the company was sending by making anthem-protesting Colin Kaepernick the face of their 30th anniversary “Just Do It” campaign, a former president of the world’s leading state sponsor of terrorism blasted the NFL for failing to sign the quarterback turned social justice activist.
“The #NFL season will start this week, unfortunately once again @Kaepernick7 is not on a NFL roster. Even though he is one of the best Quarterbacks in the league,” tweeted Iran’s former president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on Monday night (h/t Allahpundit).
That enthusiastic endorsement for “one of the best quarterbacks in the league” contrasts starkly with Trump’s take on Kaepernick. In response to reports that Nike negotiated a new “star” deal with Kaepernick, Trump told The Daily Caller Tuesday that he thinks Nike is sending a “terrible message and a message that shouldn’t be sent.”
Despite his low opinion of Kaepernick’s unpopular protest movement, Trump added, “As much as I disagree with the Colin Kaepernick endorsement, in another way — I mean, I wouldn’t have done it — in another way, it is what this country is all about, that you have certain freedoms to do things that other people think you shouldn’t do, but I personally am on a different side of it.”
Speaking of constitutionally protected freedoms, NPR host Steve Inskeep offered some thoughts on what was truly behind Ahmadinejad’s endorsement of Nike’s Kaepernick:
When I interviewed Ahmadinejad, he—like other Iranian officials—practiced “whataboutism.” He responded to criticism by changing the subject. When asked about Iranians imprisoned for protesting, Ahmadinejad replied that the United States imprisons “all sorts of people,” and that millions were behind bars. In this way he avoided answering for the acts of his own government.
Americans have come to know whataboutism as a prime rhetorical tool of President Trump, who regularly claims others are guilty of the offenses of which he is accused. (“No puppet,” he said in 2016 when Hillary Clinton questioned his ties to Russia. “You’re the puppet!”)
And whataboutism is the most straightforward way to understand Ahmadinejad’s NFL tweet. In effect he is saying, “See? You Americans punish dissent, too.”
Iran is officially designated by the United States government as a state sponsor of terrorism, a designation it has retained since 1984. Below is an excerpt of the State Department’s 2016 report on Iran’s promotion of terrorism (issued the year after President Obama helped ram through the much-maligned Iran deal) which demonstrates why it’s known as “the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism”:
Designated as a State Sponsor of Terrorism in 1984, Iran continued its terrorist-related activity in 2016, including support for Hizballah, Palestinian terrorist groups in Gaza, and various groups in Syria, Iraq, and throughout the Middle East. Iran used the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps‑Qods Force (IRGC-QF) to implement foreign policy goals, provide cover for intelligence operations, and create instability in the Middle East. Iran has acknowledged the involvement of the IRGC-QF in the conflicts in Iraq and Syria and the IRGC-QF is Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting terrorists abroad.
In 2016, Iran supported various Iraqi Shia terrorist groups, including Kata’ib Hizballah, as part of an effort to fight ISIS in Iraq and bolster the Assad regime in Syria. Iran views the Assad regime in Syria as a crucial ally and Syria and Iraq as crucial routes to supply weapons to Hizballah, Iran’s primary terrorist partner. Iran has facilitated and coerced, through financial or residency enticements, primarily Shia fighters from Afghanistan and Pakistan to participate in the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown in Syria. Iranian-supported Shia militias in Iraq have committed serious human rights abuses against primarily Sunni civilians and Iranian forces have directly backed militia operations in Syria with armored vehicles, artillery, and drones.
Since the end of the 2006 Israeli-Hizballah conflict, Iran has supplied Hizballah with thousands of rockets, missiles, and small arms, in direct violation of UN Security Council resolution (UNSCR) 1701. Iran provides the majority of financial support for Hizballah in Lebanon and has trained thousands of its fighters at camps in Iran. Hizballah fighters have been used extensively in Syria to support the Assad regime and in support of operations against ISIS in Iraq. Hizballah also carried out several attacks against Israeli Defense Forces in 2016 along the Lebanese border with Israel.
Iran has historically provided weapons, training, and funding to Hamas and other Palestinian terrorist groups, including Palestine Islamic Jihad and the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine-General Command. These Palestinian terrorist groups have been behind a number of deadly attacks originating in Gaza and the West Bank, including attacks against Israeli civilians and Egyptian security forces in the Sinai Peninsula.
Iran has provided weapons, funding, and training to Bahraini militant Shia groups that have conducted attacks on the Bahraini security forces. On January 6, 2016, Bahraini security officials dismantled a terrorist cell, linked to IRGC-QF, planning to carry out a series of bombings throughout the country.
The Iranian government maintains a robust cyberterrorism program and has sponsored cyberattacks against foreign government and private sector entities.
Iran remained unwilling to bring to justice senior al-Qa’ida (AQ) members it continued to detain and has refused to publicly identify the members in its custody. Since at least 2009, Iran has allowed AQ facilitators to operate a core facilitation pipeline through the country, enabling AQ to move funds and fighters to South Asia and Syria.