Garth Brooks wears 'Sanders' jersey mistaken by fans as endorsement of Bernie

The country music icon donned a Lions football jersey to honor running back Barry Sanders, but some thought he was endorsing a certain democratic socialist running for president.
The 53rd Annual CMA Awards - Show
Garth Brooks performs onstage during the 53rd annual CMA Awards at the Bridgestone Arena on Nov. 13, 2019 in Nashville, Tenn.Terry Wyatt / Getty Images file

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By David K. Li and Sasha Urban

Garth Brooks paid homage this week to "Sanders," unaware how wearing a football jersey with that name could be received.

The country music icon wore a No. 20 Detroit Lions football jersey while playing a show in Motown on Saturday, in a tip of the cowboy hat to all-time great Lions running back Barry Sanders.

However, the routine gesture drew the ire of many Brooks fans, who mistook the "Sanders" jersey as an endorsement of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, a democratic socialist and Democratic Party presidential hopeful.

After Brooks posted pictures of himself, with the Barry Sanders Lions jersey, on his website, Instagram, Twitter and Facebook pages, he was flooded with complaints.

"Nothing like supporting a communist to loss a few fans! How about going to a successful socialist country and doing some research? Oh yes, you can't because there aren't ANY successful socialist countries," one Instagram user said.

"Please don't make the mistake of getting political!" another person on Instagram commented.

"No thanks! Trump 2020!" still another responded.

At least one Twitter user got a huge laugh at the case of mistaken identity.

"Facebook forgot who Barry Sanders is and is freaking out at Garth Brooks for wearing a jersey and I’m dying," @jasoncvincent wrote with a series of screen grabs.

Barry Sanders also seemed to see humor in the situation, suggesting on Twitter on Friday that Brooks serve as his running mate in a presidential bid.

"Hey @garthbrooks, want to be my VP? #Number20for2020" Sanders tweeted.

The Detroit Lions got in on the gag, tweeting the team's support for a Barry Sanders candidacy.

"He's got our vote," the Lions tweeted.

Barry Sanders played 10 seasons, all with the Lions, and rushed for 15,269 yards, good for fourth on the all-time NFL list. He last played in the 1998 season, and retired at the age of 30.

Before joining the Lions, Sanders was a star football player at Oklahoma State University, Brooks' alma mater.

A representative for Brooks could not be immediately reached for comment on Friday.

Sen. Sanders' campaign communications director, Mike Casca, got a laugh out of the social media confusion and said "the health insurance industry, Wall Street and the country's billionaires" should be quaking in their boots just like the football players once tasked with stopping Barry Sanders on the gridiron.

They "must feel a bit like defenses who lined up against Barry Sanders," Casca quipped. "They knew he was getting the ball, and they still couldn't stop him."

Brooks, 58, has appeared to mostly steer clear of politics.

In 1994, he backed then-Congressman Dave McCurdy, D-Oklahoma, in the lawmaker’s unsuccessful U.S. Senate bid. McCurdy and Brooks are childhood friends from Yukon, Oklahoma.

A search of online Federal Election Commission records going back to 1993 showed no campaign contributions from any Garth Brooks; Troyal Garth Brooks, the performer's given name; or Troyal Brooks.

Shaquille Brewster contributed.