MADISON — Gov. Scott Walker took a page out of President Donald Trump’s playbook Thursday, calling on all NFL players to stand during the national anthem.
Walker’s comments elicited a quick comeback from the Democratic lieutenant governor candidate, who questioned Walker’s patriotism and asked why he never served in the military.
The back-and-forth played out in a series of tweets that came hours before the Thursday night kickoff of the NFL season. Walker, a Republican seeking a third term, asked if Democratic candidate for governor Tony Evers supports “NFL players blatantly disrespecting our flag and the Wisconsin men and women in uniform? If he wants to be the leader of our state, he owes them an answer.”
Evers, who also has never served in the military, responded by saying he’s proud to stand during the national anthem but respects the free-speech rights of those who protest.
Walker started the flap by retweeting a January message from Evers’ running mate, Mandela Barnes, in which Barnes posted “Take a knee” in reaction to a story questioning whether Trump knew the words to the national anthem.
Barnes, who is African-American, issued a stinging response to Walker, saying that “your president should learn the words” and “you just don’t get it.”
“Also, you could have served in THREE wars, why didn’t you stand up then?” Barnes tweeted to Walker.
Neither Walker, 50, nor Evers, 66, or either of their running mates, has served in the military. Walker has been in elected office since 1993, when he was 25 years old.
GOP Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch also weighed in, tweeting that “neighbors have told me” Barnes kneels during the national anthem. Barnes responded by calling Kleefisch a liar.