‘Punch you in the face’ tweet over NFL protests has some wanting to punch this lawmaker

A Miami-born Florida lawmaker stepped into the Twitter ring to express his distaste for national anthem protests by NFL players and was almost K.O.d by a volley of jabs that hit him from all sides at 140 characters a second.

State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, posted Friday, “It’s not about disrespecting you. I just wanted to raise awareness of what happens when I punch you in the face. #StandForOurAnthem.”

Within minutes, Dr. Gonzalez, a former member of the U.S. Navy Reserve, took his blows from the Twitter sphere:

“I would love to see you try. I will DM you a place, chump.”

“How about this: Come at me, bro.”

“So a friend who lives in Ft. Meyers Florida said that he will gladly drive up and satirically slap the livin’ s--- ...”

Gonzalez, 53, a Class of 1982 Belen Jesuit Preparatory School grad, is still standing.

More: 6-year-old Tampa boy takes a knee

He said his tweet was not a threat to punch a kneeling football player or anyone else in the face. Rather, he says he used parallelism, with a hint of satire, to illustrate what he sees as an incongruous argument put forth by those who say kneeling during the anthem in protest is a way to bring awareness to social and racial injustice but that the action is not disrespecting the flag or the country.

“If I tell you I’m not going to insult you by hitting you in the face to bring awareness you’re still going to be insulted by my hitting you in the face. That is the parallel argument,” Gonzalez said in a phone interview with the Miami Herald Saturday.

Julio Gonzalez Twitter Page
The Twitter page of State Rep. Julio Gonzalez, R-Venice, shows reaction to his “punch you in the face” parallel argument that was a response to the argument made by NFL players who kneel during the national anthem. Twitter/Julio Gonzelez

The response to his initial tweet has “gone nutty,” he said. But “nothing surprises me anymore.”

Gonzalez, who also used the hashtag #BoycottheNFL, argues: “I haven’t seen a compelling argument that just because you are trying to bring attention to something else — racial equality, social justice and things of that nature, or cancer relief or breast cancer or LGBT rights — it doesn’t matter what the issue may be, ‘peace on earth,’ or whatever issue. If you are doing it by making an act that is grotesquely and historically and overwhelmingly viewed as an overt affront to the flag and the national anthem and the country I don’t think you’ll be able to make a convincing argument of how that action is not an insult.”

More: Leonard Pitts’ viewpoint on NFL protests

Instead of kneeling before the flag, Gonzalez suggests “the time to argue and bring up those issues for which you proudly and zealously argue is at some other point.”

Gonzalez, a member of Sen. Marco Rubio’s Florida leadership team during his presidential campaign, graduated from University of Miami medical school in 1990, and the Navy’s Flight Surgery School in Pensacola with a degree in aviation medicine in 1992.

The tweets keep coming at the doc:

“What is cute is that an elected official thinks it is not below his office to threaten citizens.”

“You probably punch like a 6-year-old.”

“Some light reading to help you and the @GOP become better lawmakers!” with a link to the First Amendment.

Beaten up a bit, Gonzalez is taking his Twitter round in stride. He doesn’t regret his “punch you in the face” tweet.

“I think my tweet brings attention to parallelism. You should stay on that ground and shouldn’t soften up because some small subgroup is misconstrued and tries to beat you down to change position. My position is still the same.”

Howard Cohen: 305-376-3619, @HowardCohen