Bulldog Athletes on Kneeling in Protest

This for my people, tryna stay alive and just stay peaceful

So hard to survive a world so lethal

Who will take a stand and be our hero, of my people

-Joey Bada$$, For My People

 

It was in August of 2016 when Colin Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with the 49ers, spent two weeks sitting, then kneeling, during the National Anthems of his preseason games, before it was recognised by the media. Now, more than ten teams have members who are, in some way, protesting injustice. Markus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs was not on the field for the National Anthem, Oakland Raiders’ Marshawn Lynch was seated during the Anthem, and before the Philadelphia Eagles played the 49ers, Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist above his head during the singing of the National Anthem. All because Kaepernick knelt.

 

The first time Kaepernick protested was towards the end of his preseason games and he was seen sitting on the bench during the National Anthem. Prior to his final preseason game, Kaepernick spoke to U.S. Army Veteran, Nate Boyer, who was interested in the reason behind Kaepernick’s sitting. Boyer listened to Kaepernick as he explained how kneeling is his way of shedding light on police brutality towards people of color.

 

It was during this conversation in which Boyer convinced Kaepernick that kneeling would still show respect for the Anthem, but also bring awareness to this social injustice.

 

A lot of students on campus have heard of Colin Kaepernick and not just on his stats as a decent football player, but as an activist as well. Because of Kaepernick’s protest, taking a knee during the national anthem has become a well known form of resistance throughout the country.

 

Kneeling for the National Anthem is not as popular of a protest on college campuses as it is in professional sports. At college games, there is less emphasis on the Anthem because generally players are not on the field when the Anthem is performed by the school’s band.

 

Gyree Durante was the back-up quarterback at Division III Albright College in Reading, Pennsylvania. After he knelt during the national anthem on Oct. 7, 2017, Durante was cut under the premise that he acted against “a unified decision.”

 

As the University of Redlands is a home of intellectual thought and collegiate sports, we asked bulldog athletes to share their opinions about Colin Kaepernick, kneeling and inequality.

 

“[Kaepernick] kneeling has been misinterpreted, as far as those who have served coming forward,” said sophomore football player, Alieu Corr. “He is simply stating that the American experience for some is not as positive as it is for others.”

 

Corr came to the states his junior year of high school from West Africa. Having spent most of his life outside the states, Corr said he feels more like an ally to people of color.

 

The message is, whether Kaepernick kneels or sits, “equal treatment and equality. The unfortunate reality is that people are looking at what he’s doing versus what he’s trying to say,” said sophomore and basketball player, Jesse Wimz. “And I don’t think it’s going to make a difference to his criticisers, but kneeling is a more respectful way to go about it.”

 

“Kneeling portrays a more respectful image than sitting… But the message is the same” said Wimz.

 

Given that 52.9 percent of our student body is comprised of minorities, social injustice is an important topic of discussion. University of Redlands Football Coach, Mike Maynard, would agree on this.

 

“As an educator, it’s not my place to influence [the players] as to how I think, that wouldn’t be appropriate, but to present both sides of the story,” said Maynard.

 

Maynard has been coaching at Redlands for 30 years and coaching high school football long before he came to the UofR, but he has never experienced a protest such as a player kneeling.

 

In response to this topic of social injustice, Maynard has brought members of the Redlands Police Department (RPD) to come and speak with his team. As well as bringing the RPD to campus, he has made it a point to discuss social justice issues, such as inequality, with his players.

 

The RPD members he brought were able to help his team discuss and share with officers who are interested in representing the safety and equality this kneeling has brought attention to.

 

Corr believes, similar to Wimz, that the form of protesting is not the issue, but also understands where Coach Maynard is coming from.

 

“[Maynard] would prefer we all stand. His philosophy is that when we’re playing football, for practice or games, you’re outside identity does not define you regardless of belonging,” Corr said.

 

“For our boys, the field is their sanctuary,” Maynard said. “The one place where, no matter their backgrounds, no matter their differences, they are all equal. When you step between the lines, the stress and strain, from academics to family to girlfriends, it all disappears and they get to just be a football player and enjoy the sport for what it is. This is our escape, our safe place.”

 

photo courtesy of Halie West



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