Michigan lawmakers and local civil rights activists are demanding Col. Kriste Etue step down over a text meme she shared on Facebook calling NFL players who take a knee during the national anthem “anti-American degenerates.” However, the governor’s office said Etue, director of Michigan State Police (MSP), would not be fired or asked to resign.
The meme circulating social media that the highest-ranking official at the MSP shared with her Facebook friends last week stated:
Facebook via the Detroit Free Press
Colin Kaepernick, a former San Francisco 49er quarterback, began taking a knee during the national anthem last year to call attention to police brutality against Blacks. Kaepernick told NFL Media in 2016 that “there are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Since then, many NFL players have also taken a knee.
Republican Gov. Rick Snyder appointed Etue to her post in January 2011. Snyder said he would not fire her or ask her to resign from her post at the helm of the MSP, which provides law enforcement and public safety services throughout Michigan.
“How many people in life go throughout life without making some mistake? The thing is do you recognize you made a mistake, apologize, learn from that and move forward,” the governor said.
Michigan State Police spokeswoman Shanon Banner said Friday that an internal investigation will determine whether Etue will be disciplined, and the police director will be treated the same as any other state police employee accused of misconduct. If it’s found that Etue violated agency policy, she could receive a written reprimand or a five-day suspension, Banner said.
Banner also said that the police director did not create the meme, and it’s “posted in other places around the Internet.”
U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D-Southfield) said Etue showed a “lack of unbiased judgment” in sharing the meme on Facebook.
“Etue’s actions were not only inappropriate, but a disturbing indicator of the lack of unbiased judgment that is required from law enforcement leadership,” Lawrence said in a statement on Friday. “Etue’s actions demonstrated that she is unaware or unmoved by the sense of outrage, vulnerability and fear among minorities toward the criminal justice system.”
The day prior, U.S. Rep. John Conyers (D-Detroit) called for Etue to be fired or resign as well.
In 2015, the Detroit Free Press reported that the Michigan State Police had relapsed into a department overwhelmingly dominated by white males, 22 years after it was released from federal oversight for failing to hire enough Blacks, women and other minorities.
“Since the article ran, the department has stepped up its recruitment of women and minorities and significantly boosted the number of Blacks graduating from its trooper schools,” according to the Free Press. “But Blacks in the department still don’t reflect Michigan’s demographic make-up, where Blacks make up about 14 percent of the population.”
On Wednesday, the Michigan Legislative Black Caucus, which is comprised of 22 Democratic legislators, called for the resignation or firing of Etue over sharing the meme. The caucus said the head of MSP couldn’t be trusted to fulfill her duties in an objective and unbiased manner. Progress Michigan said in a statement that law enforcement should not attempt to divide the country further.
Etue issued an apology on Tuesday:
“It was a mistake to share this message on Facebook and I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended,” said an MSP social media post. “I will continue my focus on unity at the Michigan State Police and in communities across Michigan.”
In regard to personal use of social media, MSP policy states: “Members are free to express themselves as private citizens on social media sites to the degree that their postings do not impair working relationships, impede the performance of duties, impair discipline and harmony among co-workers, or negatively affect the public perception of the department.”
However, Etue’s decision to share the meme also upset some Black troopers in a department, according to the Free Press.
More than 200 players joined in solidarity Sunday to protest Trump’s assault on their right to protest racial injustices.
Etue’s Sept. 24 post on Facebook came two days after President Donald Trump referred to NFL players and other professional athletes who kneel or sit during the national anthem prior to games as “sons of bitches” at rally in Alabama on Sept. 22.
“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now,” Trump said. “Out! He’s fired.”
Rep. Lawrence explained in a statement that the “point and purpose behind the NFL players taking a knee is to protest police brutality and to bring awareness to racial injustice.”
“While most of our police force truly serve, protect and respect their communities; racial disparities in the criminal justice system which disproportionately affect African Americans is a very real issue in this country and in the state of Michigan,” she said. “Etue’s actions demonstrated that she is unaware or unmoved by the sense of outrage, vulnerability and fear among minorities toward the criminal justice system.”
Black Mothers are 'Queens who Produce Champions,' Says Rev. Jesse Jackson
Jackson refuted President Trump’s claim that NFL players who protest are “sons of bitches.”
It has been predominately Black athletes participating in the protests. And, during DiversityInc’s fall event on Wednesday, civil rights leader Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr. slammed Trump’s comment. Jackson said, “Black mothers are not bitches, they’re queens who produce champions. They’re not bitches who produce thugs.”