OTERO COUNTY, New Mexico — A prominent civil rights leader in New Mexico is among numerous activists and political figures who are denouncing the leader of the Cowboys for Trump political support group after he posted a social media video calling for some Black athletes to “go back to Africa.”
Otero County Commissioner Couy Griffin urged people who support performances of the Black National Anthem at football games to “go back to Africa” and condemned as “vile scum” people who portray the Confederate flag as racist, in a selfie Facebook video that has since been removed.
The video was watched by at least 2,200 people before it was also removed from the Cowboys for Trump website. Griffin says he did not remove the video.
The 35-minute speech from Griffin 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? This is America, we play the National Anthem in America today.”
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.”
Reached by phone, Griffin said he was speaking out against a double standard that he says only holds white people responsible for racist behavior, and described the “back to Africa” phrase on his part as a poor choice of words.
“It seems like we have such a double standard,” Griffin said. “You know the Black community can say whatever they feel like saying about the white community and label us all as racist. But as soon as you disagree with something like the Black National Anthem being played, then all of the sudden you’re deemed a racist.”
In his speech, Griffin wears a shift with a “C4T,” which stands for Cowboys for Trump, and acknowledges that media outlets are likely to highlight excerpts of his speech as racist. He used an epithet to describe Chinese Americans and repeatedly used “Africans” to describe Black activists.
Harold Bailey, president of the Albuquerque chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said he was horrified by Griffin’s comments. He called the remarks some of the most hateful things he’s heard in recent memory.
“This cat is off the charts. There is no denying that this is a racist rant meant to spark violence,” Bailey said. “It’s despicable and unacceptable. I really don’t know what else to say.”
Devont’e Kurt Watson, a member of the Black Lives Matter movement in Albuquerque, also called Griffin’s remarks bigoted and believed they were given to incite violence.
“The Black National Anthem is an American anthem and we are fighting for American ideals,” Watson said. “He’d know that if he’d have a conversation with Black Lives Matter instead of acting like a child.”
Griffin said he would never incite violence — unless perhaps the U.S. Constitution were under attack. And he explained that he supports a vision for an America of all races and ethnicities without bias against whites.
“It’s such a hypocritical thing for people to say, ‘Well, you know, you’re only an immigrant if you’re a person of color,’” he said. “If you don’t have Native American ancestry, we’re all immigrants. … And we need to get back to that.”
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.
Mike Curtis, spokesman for the Republican Party of New Mexico, declined comment on Griffin’s comments in the video.
Griffin’s speech also delved into his opposition to New Mexico’s health orders in response to the coronavirus pandemic, and his decision to forgo visits from his son under a joint custody agreement rather than wear a mask due to the virus.
In March, Griffin faced calls to resign from his county commissioner’s seat after he said in another video that “the only good Democrat is a dead Democrat.”
Griffin said he was referring to the Democratic Party’s ideas, claiming Democrats were anti-American because they oppose President Donald Trump.
Griffin said he was invited and plans to attend a Wednesday appearance by Trump in the Texas portion of the Permian Basin oil region that stretches into New Mexico. He considers Trump a friend but said that his latest online speech was not coordinated with Trump.
“We stand on our own set of ideals,” Griffin said of the Cowboys for Trump group. “And they just so coincide with the Trump administration.”
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.