SALT LAKE CITY — A Democrat-turned-conservative-Republican who played professional football for a decade has sharp words for the “leftists” he sees as responsible for holding back blacks in America and turning the NFL against the red, white and blue.

Burgess Owens pulls no punches when it comes to speaking his mind about what he sees happening in the country, which would be expected of someone who wrote a book titled, “Liberalism or How to Turn Good Men into Whiners, Weenies and Wimps.”

“I’ll be honest with you, the white supremacists have not been our greatest enemy. It’s been the black elitists, those in the black community that call themselves friends of the black race that vote for every single anti-black policy that comes through the pike that keeps us poor, uneducated, hopeless, angry, and they get wealthier at the same time,” he said.

Owens spoke Monday at a Sutherland Institute forum on conservatism. Sutherland is a conservative public policy think tank in Salt Lake City.

Owens, 68, played safety in the NFL for 10 years with the New York Jets and Oakland Raiders, winning a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 1980. He travels throughout the country from his home in Herriman to speak about conservative principles and is a Fox News contributor.

Owens said he wrote his latest book, “Why I Stand: From Freedom to the Killing Fields of Socialism,” because of what he has seen in the NFL the past three years, which he said should be a “wake-up call for all of us.”

Some “good-hearted” young men want to show their courage and do the right thing by kneeling during the national anthem before games, but they are standing against the flag, he said.

Owens said it’s not the NFL he grew up with, when people like Raiders owner Al Davis and commissioner Pete Rozelle loved America and built the league around it. Now, he said, “globalists” looking to profit in China and other countries run the league.

“The NFL today could care less about our country,” he said.

But, he said, the movement did pull back the curtain on what is going on, showing that the nation’s children are being attacked.

“The left are nothing but cowards and bullies. The left are the ones that used to wear white hoods and now wear a black mask. They hide behind bureaucracy, behind jobs that nobody can find who they are,” Owens said.

Liberals, he said, will do “anything they can do to make black people think they are hapless, helpless and hopeless and incapable of doing anything.”

The left has used the black community to get votes for a long time by keeping people poor and dependent on government, he said. It’s not about helping people and moving forward, but about accumulating power, he said.

“The left is addicted to us,” Owens said.

But, he said, blacks are “waking up” to what’s happening, and that has made liberals “frantic.”

“That’s why these guys are panicking. The black community is leaving the plantation. We’re leaving,” Owen said.

Owens said the left is also “going nuts” because President Donald Trump is fighting back.

“We have a guy who gets on Twitter and drives them nuts. Drives some of us nuts also, but I’m OK with that,” he said. “Now that I realize it drives them nuts, I’m enjoying it.”

Owens said the greatest gift President Barack Obama gave the country is that he was “such a lousy president.”

“The reason he got voted in was because white Americans said, ‘Finally, we can close this chapter. We can show that race is not a big deal for anymore for us,’” he said.

Black America, he said, was still looking for the hope and change Obama promised after he left office. There are more blacks being racist today than ever before, thinking they deserve success because of their skin color, “and we have the black elitists that have allowed this to happen to us.”

Owens said Republicans need to take gain control of Congress and maintain the presidency.

“If you want to throw away the future of the black youth in our country, the Hispanic youth in our country, let’s put another Democrat in office and they’ll continue doing what they did in the past,” he said.

Owens also railed against rap music, calling it “poison” for young black people.

“The guys who become billionaires become their heroes. They can’t speak the English language. They got tattoos all over their face and hands. They don’t know how to respect women. They will not respect our flag. They know nothing about our country. But they’re the heroes of the left,” he said.

“Then they have a guy like me come in and say, ‘Let’s do it the old-fashioned way,’ and we’re the enemy of the left.”