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.
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.
But a half hour after that message, Earnhardt tweeted his thoughts on the matter, drawing both the admiration and ire of fans everywhere.
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.
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.
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.