WWE superstar Randy Orton has called for a teacher, who trod on the American flag in a stand against the treatment of African-Americans by police, to be fired. 'The Viper' stormed into the Black Lives Matters debate in a wide-ranging Twitter rant, insisting that all "American People matter".
Reacting to news Massey Hill Classical High School teacher Lee Francis was hit with a suspension for his act of protest, the 36-year-old his 4.75 million followers he deserved a more severe punishment. "Suspend? Should fire his a**!," he tweeted.
When a follower responded that it was a "literally just a flag", Orton said he was at a "loss for words ".
He later hit back that "Americans are dying. Pigment of skin doesn't matter. American people matter."
Orten's need to defend the American flag may stem from the fact he has a military background. Although he made his name in the world of wrestling, he served in the marine corps after graduating from high school. However, in 1999 he received a bad conduct discharge after going AWOL on two separate occasions and disobeying an order from a commanding officer. He subsequently spent 38 days in a military prison.
His remarks prompted a strong reaction from the online community and opened him up for riducule. "Why do white imbeciles like @RandyOrton care more about a flag than the death of unarmed black people?" one critic said.
Orton's comments came just hours after footage was released depicting the fatal shooting of unarmed black man Terence Crutcher in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on 16 September. The clip showed the 40-year-old standing beside his vehicle with his hands raised in the air while being surrounded by several police officers before being dead by Tulsa police officer Betty Shelby.
The Black Lives Matter movement has gained traction in recent months following the deaths of Baton Rouge resident Alton Sterling and Philando Castile in Minnesota at the hand of officers. Beyoncé, Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande are just a few of the stars who have lent their voice to the campaign.
Several stars have faced fierce backlash for use of the "All Lives Matter" hashtag, which according to Columbia professor Carla Shedd had the effect of "erasing the vulnerability of and dehumanisation of black people".