Michigan State Police’s director is apologizing for a controversial post she shared on her Facebook page that reportedly labeled athletes who kneel during the national anthem as “a bunch of rich, entitled, arrogant, ungrateful, anti-American degenerates.”
Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue reportedly shared the meme, which has been circulated elsewhere and refers to the sports figures using the stance as “millionaire ingrates who hate America and disrespect our armed forces and veterans,” on her private page that could only be seen by friends on Sunday.
Late Tuesday, Etue responded with a statement amid a growing outcry from activists and advocacy groups in Michigan after the Detroit Free Press reported Etue had posted the message.
“It was a mistake to share this message on Facebook and I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended,” she wrote. “I will continue my focus on unity at the Michigan State Police and in communities across Michigan.”
Etue’s post comes as the public debate rages about NFL players taking a knee when the “Star-Spangled Banner” is performed as a way of protesting police brutality and other social and political issues nationwide.
Progress Michigan officials called for Etue, whom Gov. Rick Snyder appointed in 2011 as the state police’s first female head, to resign.
“When such a high-ranking member of law enforcement feels compelled to share such broad, inaccurate, and shameful comments, their judgment can no longer be trusted to help protect Michigan’s diverse communities. Col. Kriste Kibbey Etue needs to step aside,” said Lonnie Scott, the nonprofit’s executive director, in a statement Tuesday night.
“Let’s set something straight: these protests are not about the flag or about veterans or the military, they are about speaking out against police brutality and injustice in communities of color across America. That is something that law enforcement should take to heart, not use to try to divide us further.”
The Detroit Coalition Against Police Brutality also called for Etue’s removal as well as “a complete overhaul of the department,” which the group said did not have enough minority representation.
The state police leader “has unveiled an invective of insults reminiscent of our worst examples of racism, hailing back to when blacks were called ‘uppity’ for daring to speak out against unfair laws and abusive treatment,” spokesman Kenneth Reed said in a statement.
“In this, she echoes an equally racist President Trump by amplifying his vulgar comments of a few days ago, when he called our athletes ‘SOBs’. Her comments were highly provocative and her heightened rhetoric will only serve to exacerbate tensions between state police and citizens, ultimately leading to even more violence between police and citizens — violence that could eclipse the Rebellion of 1967.”
Relations between Michigan State Police and the black community in Detroit have been tested following a controversy involving a 15-year-old ATV driver who died last month after a state trooper used a Taser on him. Detroit police are investigating the incident. Meanwhile, Michigan State Police officials have since said they have temporarily stopped patrolling patrols in the 9th Precinct on Detroit’s east side, where they had been since 2012 as part of the state’s Secure Cities Partnership initiative.
Late Tuesday, in a Facebook post, Kary Moss, executive director for the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan, further criticized Etue.
“It is the sworn duty of the state police director to uphold the Constitution, which protects all people in this state and to demonstrate respect for those principles,” she wrote. “She undermines her own position and the trust of the community with these remarks and utter disregard of the people she represents."
The uproar over the post comes as athletes, coaches and public officials weigh in on the controversy over President Donald Trump’s recent comments about NFL players kneeling during the national anthem.
During Sunday’s NFL games, a number of teams, including the Detroit Lions and owner Martha Ford, made a show of unity and protest — some linking arms, others kneeing, while some teams chose not to be on the field during the anthem.
Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh recently said he would have no issue if one of his players took a knee during the anthem. Pistons owner Tom Gores has also shown his support for the moves. And billionaire developer Dan Gilbert called for “an open, inclusive dialogue that would allow the expression of all views and concerns.”