It turns out that former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has a lot of opinions about sports — and he feels that Twitter is the perfect place to put them.
On Monday, Ahmadinejad — a man who regularly calls the Holocaust a lie, says the US government was probably behind 9/11, and claims there are no gay people in Iran — took a swing at the NFL for excluding Colin Kaepernick from the roster, calling him “one of the best Quarterbacks in the league.”
Kaepernick is well known for his participation in kneeling protests during the national anthem, which are intended to draw attention to racism and social inequality in the US. He’s filed a grievance against the NFL for allegedly colluding to keep him off the field due to his activism, and hasn’t played since 2016.
President Donald Trump has often criticized Kaepernick and the protests themselves, calling them unpatriotic. So Ahmadinejad’s tweet could be construed as plain political trolling.
But last week, Ahmadinejad delved into the controversy over Serena Williams’s black catsuit, wondering aloud on Twitter why the French Open committee was disrespecting her by not allowing her to wear it during the competition.
This is odd for a number of reasons, one being that Iran isn’t exactly known as a country where women are encouraged to wear what they want without restrictions. (To be fair, he did allude to that in his tweet.)
The former Iranian president has also waxed philosophical on sports more generally, writing that their role in society is to bring people together.
The philosophy and spirit of sports is bringing people together not causing more conflicts. Politics must support the spirit of sports not destroy it.— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (@Ahmadinejad1956) September 3, 2018
And in late August, in a tweet that indirectly criticized Trump, Ahmadinejad said that he loved all athletes. He even listed a few by name, including Michael Jordan.
Mr. @realDonaldTrump In my opinion everyone especially a President should love all,and not differentiate between them. I love @KingJames #MichaelJordan @RaufMahmoud and all athletes, and wish them all the best.— Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (@Ahmadinejad1956) August 5, 2018
All of this is a bit surprising, coming from a former president who is better known for violently crushing protests and virulent anti-American screeds than expressing his generic affection for athletic ideals and social justice.
Writing for the Atlantic, Steve Inskeep posits that Ahmadinejad (whom he interviewed twice) isn’t really interested in American sports or football as much as he is in deflecting criticism from Iran’s terrible human rights record.
And the former Iranian president’s Twitter feed is not all sports commentary, of course. He intersperses these thoughts with sharp criticism of the US, capitalism, and aphoristic sayings about power, the elite, and justice.
The other odd part about the former president’s new affinity for Twitter is that the platform is still officially banned in Iran.
Iranian authorities blocked access to the social media platform in 2009 after postelection protests; they’ve unblocked the platform sporadically for short periods of time since then.
But none of that seems to concern the former president, who tweeted out recently that despite his busy schedule, he’ll “always make time for #Twitter.”
So we’ve learned, Mahmoud. So we’ve learned.