Neo-Nazis are using shared anger over NFL players kneeling during the national anthem to recruit and radicalize white conservatives, a report from Newsweek found.
Newsweek spoke to several prominent white nationalists, including Billy Roper and Richard Spencer, who said they are taking advantage of “shared grievances” to make inroads with otherwise “normal” conservatives.
Roper, a former schoolteacher and prominent neo-Nazi voice, said the best recruiting strategies center around this idea of building a common identity.
“I could be at the grocery store and be next to someone at the produce aisle and simply say, ‘Wow, can you believe the price of produce these days?'” he said to Newsweek.
And now that the NFL protests against inequality have caught on across the league, one of the first players to kneel and a prominent left activist voice, Colin Kaepernick, has drawn the ire of plenty of people on the right, from rank and file Republicans to extremist white supremacists. Even President Donald Trump has repeatedly attacked the protesting NFL players, saying that any player who kneels is “son of a bitch” who should be fired.”
For Roper, it’s not much of a jump to going from being upset at the kneeling protesters to espousing white supremacist views. He acknowledges that the election of Trump shifted “the Overton window far enough to the right” to make this a viable strategy.
“My bet is that when politics is on the field, whites will choose to identify with the white uniform they were born with,” he said.
White Supremacist and National Policy Institute president Spencer also agreed that the NFL protests have provided new opportunities to recruit fresh faces into the white nationalist movement.
“Kaepernick explicitly said this about race: The people who gravitate to flag waving and that sort of kitsch are usually white people,” he said. “So, we will gladly take on those symbols (for the white nationalist movement).”