RIO RANCHO, N.M. (AP) — Democrats and civil rights leaders in New Mexico are denouncing the leader of the Cowboys for Trump group after he posted a social media video calling for some Black athletes to "go back to Africa."
The 35-minute speech from Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin on Facebook live attacked Black NFL players who support standing before games for "Lift Ev'ry Voice and Sing" — traditionally known as the Black National Anthem — as a gesture of solidarity against racial injustice.
"They want to destroy our country," Griffin said of the Black athletes and supporters of the song. "I got a better idea, why don't you go back to Africa and form your little football teams over in Africa and you can play on a(n) old beat-out dirt lot and you can play your Black national anthem there. How about that?"
Griffin also offered to give people of color what he called a "101" lesson on racial identity and said anyone who does not identify as "American" first or opposes the Second Amendment right to bear arms should leave the U.S. or "go home."
Griffin said he recorded the speech from a southern New Mexico mountaintop after fasting for three days as he contemplates the nation's political fate as the November election approaches.
New Mexico Speaker of the House Brian Egolf tweeted late Monday that Griffin's comments were racist and that he should resign his Otero County Commissioner seat.
"Nothing that happened on that mountain had anything to do with God," Egolf wrote. "You are a racist. You need to resign. To invoke the Lord in defense of your disgusting statements is the antithesis of the teachings of Christ. Shame on you."
U.S. Rep. and Democratic Senate candidate Ben Ray Luján called on Democrats and Republicans to denounce Griffin.
"In a racist rant that Commissioner Couy Griffin posted, he says African-Americans should go back to Africa, Mexican Americans should go back to Mexico, and Chinese Americans should go back to China. This racist and hateful language does not reflect the values we know that New Mexico was built on," Luján said.
Devont'e Kurt Watson, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement in Albuquerque, said the "back to Africa" comment showed Griffin didn't see Black citizens as Americans who have a right to protest. "What we are doing is very American," Watson said.
Mike Curtis, spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined comment on Griffin's comments in the video.
Griffin in an interview with The Associated Press defended his comments and said he was speaking out against a double standard that he says only holds white people responsible for racist behavior. He conceded that he may have poorly chosen his words that by suggesting that some Blacks go "back to Africa."
Griffin plans to attend a Wednesday appearance by President Donald Trump in the Texas portion of the Permian Basin oil region that stretches into New Mexico. He considers Trump a friend.
Cowboys for Trump hasn't disclosed how many members it has but a dozen or so supporters have showed up at campaign events around the country.
Earlier this month, an arbitrator ruled Cowboys for Trump must register as a political committee in New Mexico and pay $7,600 in fines for not filing expenditure reports. The group has refused to disclose its records.
Lee reported from Santa Fe, New Mexico