NFL owners unveiled their new policy on kneeling and protest during the playing of the National Anthem. Their decision – which will fine players who leave the locker room and kneel or fail to “stand and show respect” – represents clear capitulation to President Trump’s tough talk on anthem protest.
Ole Miss: Despite the reality that “Zero Ole Miss basketball players knelt for the national anthem” last season, incoming head coach Kermit Davis preemptively shared his attitude toward a hypothetical protest: “We’re going to be a team that respects the flag and the national anthem…It’s who we’re going to be.” The author pulled no punches, chiding Colin Kaepernick for his current unemployment: “It’s too bad his coach didn’t talk to him about respecting the flag beforehand in the locker room.”
Yale University: According to the Yale Daily News, members of the Yale Football team coordinated a kneeling protest this season. In response, “Somebody tweeted, ‘You’re getting an Ivy League education, what do you have to complain about?’” – eerily similar criticism as those who claim black athletes should not protest because of large salaries. Sophomore Cornerback Malcolm Dixon notes in response that “If the police pulled me over, they’re not going to say, ‘Oh he goes to an Ivy League school, he’s fine.’
University of Washington: Nic Varela penned an op-ed to The Daily, explaining why he will not simply “shut up and sing” at Washington’s commencement where he was asked to sing the National Anthem. He states: “I will choose to display my patriotism…by singing our anthem,” and and that he will “use this opportunity to keep the conversation going about our displays of nationalism in country.”
University of Kentucky: The Kentucky Kernel’s Editorial Board frames the debate in constitutional terms: “Kneeling is a form of free speech protected by the First Amendment,” noting: “If anything, wanting one’s country to be better and fighting for that vision is one of the most patriotic things anyone can do.”
Ohio State: The Lantern highlights QB JT Barrett’s issues with President Trump’s views on the National anthem: “The fact that he kind of, I guess, tried to quiet people down and try to silence that was really wild to me,” Barrett said.
The Bottom Line: With kneeling becoming common in professional sports – particularly the NFL – we know see the practice spreading into collegiate sports. Naturally, the protests receive varied levels of support along racial and geographical lines, and coaches and institutions (like the NFL) are all scrambling to balance free expression with purported respect for the flag.