CNN worked with researchers at Clemson University that have archived millions of tweets sent by the Internet Research Agency, a Russian troll group that was indicted by Special Counsel Robert Mueller in February. The accounts' links to Russia were discovered by Twitter, which provided details about them to Congress. The data shows the trolls repeatedly weighing in on the debate, using different accounts to take both sides. While they used some accounts to push petitions to fire the protesting players, they used others to hail them as heroes.Over the past year, social media networks have identified and removed thousands of accounts tied to the IRA. But despite the tech companies' efforts, there’s no indication that the group is shying away from the NFL controversy.
Wow, NFL first game ratings are way down over an already really bad last year comparison. Viewership declined 13%, the lowest in over a decade. If the players stood proudly for our Flag and Anthem, and it is all shown on broadcast, maybe ratings could come back? Otherwise worse!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) September 9, 2018
“The whole purpose behind the kneeling has gotten corrupted by the politicians,” said Richard Campbell, 44, an African American father of two teenage girls who traveled to the game from North Carolina. “It was a simple gesture that was meant to bring attention to something that needed to be addressed — but people have taken it and turned it into a political agenda. They turned it into this whole: You’re either with the country or against it.”“I’m sick of it. I’m sick of the whole thing,” said Matt Cory, 38, a political independent who lives in the area. He doesn’t like players kneeling but thinks the whole thing has been blown out of proportion. “You come to a sporting event to relax and enjoy yourself . . . I get it. I get that it’s important, but I’m just tired of it. I’m exhausted.”