A veteran sportswriter has come under fire after suggesting that United States flags on display during the opening ceremony at the Tokyo Olympics were a visual reminder of the alleged surge of white nationalism in the US.
ESPN columnist Ben Rhoden told ‘CBS This Morning’ that the opening ceremony used to be one of his favorite parts of the Olympics, but that this year he felt differently about the event.
I love the opening ceremonies, the march of countries. Then I just realized: You know, man, particularly after these last four years, I had it wrong. Nationalism is not good. We’ve seen the rise of white nationalism.
Extrapolating on his insights, Rhoden said the sports ceremony made him think back to the January 6 Capitol riots, where he “saw a lot of US flags.”
“So now when I see the flag… what America am I living in?” he asked.
According to the ESPN writer, the Tokyo Olympics should be a “time of soul searching” for the United States, adding that winning medals might be “antithetic” to the quiet introspection that the nation so desperately needs.
His provocative commentary failed to score points with many on social media.
Jonathan Gilliam, a popular conservative commentator and former Navy SEAL, described Rhoden’s performance as a “brain dead leftist rant.”
This is the most brain dead leftist rant I’ve heard in a while. @WCRhoden epitomizes the ideological communist left & the tactic of conflating all issues into one racist, antiAmerican rant. Combined with the clueless @CBSThisMorning hosts, the entire video reeks of useful idiots.
— Jonathan T Gilliam (@JGilliam_SEAL) July 26, 2021
One well-known sports analyst, Gerry Callahan, suggested Rhoden must have rejoiced when his Antifa and Black Lives Matter (BLM) “friends” burned American flags during weeks of nationwide anti-racism protests last year.
Others urged the ESPN columnist to avoid such broad generalizations when speaking about the US flag and what it represents. One particularly unimpressed commenter accused him of “peddling and grifting off victimhood.”
You have to be one frail individual to make an asinine statement like that. The US flag is not something owned by any one of us but all of us. Having national pride rises above what happened on Jan 6th. Bill Rhoden peddles and grifts off of victimhood.
— IronMike5189620 (@RReady96) July 26, 2021
Rhoden received some backup on social media, however. Several tweets praised his remarks and said he should make regular appearances on CBS.
The Biden administration has claimed white supremacists and other right-wing elements have become a top security concern for the United States, pointing to the events on January 6, as well as other plots allegedly linked to domestic extremists, as evidence of this trend.
This narrative has come under growing scrutiny, however. Earlier this month, reports emerged that undercover FBI informants may have played a key role in a plan hatched by alleged extremists to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer, raising questions about the actual seriousness of the plot. As for the storming of the Capitol on January 6: a recent poll found most Americans would prefer Congress to investigate the BLM riots, which have caused extensive damage to cities across the country.
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