Congressional candidate Gavin Rollins made a strong statement on social media concerning the national anthem, sparking a fierce debate on Twitter.
The current Clay County commissioner and Republican candidate for Florida’s 3rd Congressional District posted a tweet last Friday saying, “If you don’t believe that standing for the National Anthem is the RIGHT thing to do, then I will personally buy you a ONE WAY ticket out of this country!”
In an exclusive interview with News4Jax, Rollins said the tweet was, "a creative way of getting the conversation going and it certainly did that.” He added, “that’s what the first amendment is all about, is having debates and discussions about these issues.”
The issue began with President Donald Trump taking aim at kneeling NFL Players.
Some Twitter users took shots at Rollins for politicizing the issue, tweeting, "I stand and salute but I’d prefer leaders who actually comply with the Constitution, not just blow hot air about what they believe is patriotic. Don’t be a hypocrite. "
Along with another response saying, “Please buy me a ticket to the Bahamas, my man."
I stand and salute but I’d prefer leaders who actually comply with the Constitution, not just blow hot air about what they believe is patriotic. Don’t be a hypocrite.— Nikhil Joshi (@NikJoshi_Esq) February 29, 2020
When pressed, Rollins said he would only buy the offered ticket if the destination country is Venezuela, a country often targeted by conservatives for its socialist policies.
“I would have an attorney draft up language on that and so if people want to reach out and are interested in giving up their citizenship and moving out of the country we can talk about buying them that one-way ticket to Venezuela,” Rollins added.
Rollins is currently running for Florida’s 3rd Congressional Seat held by conservative Ted Yoho, who is stepping down at the end of his term. Fourteen candidates have filed to run for the seat, including 10 Republicans.
News4Jax reached out to all nine of Rollins’ opponents in the Republican primary for comment on his tweet.
Bill Engelbrecht answered, echoing Rollins’ sentiment saying, “My belief is, if a person thinks our national anthem is not worth standing, then they should leave.”
Candidate Ryan Chamberlin wrote: “We are sick of public figures desecrating the National Anthem, but we need to address the issue with real action, not a gimmick. I’ll introduce legislation that anyone who knowingly and intentionally desecrates the National Anthem or the American Flag as part of a public protest will have their citizenship revoked. If they wish to hate America, they are welcome to do it as a citizen in another country.”
News4Jax also heard from the campaign of Judson Sapp, who pointed out he is leading in all early polling and is regularly posting things on social media and websites that garner a lot of attention, including a recent article that was retweeted by Donald Trump Jr.
In a statement to News4Jax, his campaign wrote: