Flag Protest in Collegiate Sports
Longwood University Considers protest free speech
On August 26th, 2017, Colin Kaepernick knelt for the National Anthem instead of traditionally standing. Ever since this date, more and more athletes have followed him in this act. Through the past year, professional sports have been filled with protest during the National Anthem, whether it is kneeling, locking arms, or sitting, professional athletes have begun to use their right of free speech.
These protests have migrated to the collegiate athletes as well, however, for the past few years, sports teams have always had other pre-game rituals, some have even never come out of the locker room for the National Anthem. Longwood University is one collegiate program, that by being a Division 1 sports institution, it has a platform that college athletes could use if they wish to follow the recent protest that have taken place in the world of sports today.
Director of Athletics at Longwood University, Troy Austin, believes that the right to protest and stand on certain beliefs is free speech and is a right that he believes the athletes at Longwood University understand and can use.
“I have talked about this with the other coaches and I think the big point is the ability to protest is an area of free speech and we won’t limit that right,” said Austin. “We also know that this is an environment of higher education and we want the athletes to understand what and why you’re doing what you’re doing.”
Partaking in National Anthem protest can be a sensitive subject for most colleges due to the fact it effects multiple areas such as, affiliates, constituents, and collegiate publicity. Other Longwood teams have had several actions during the National Anthem, many years before the protest even became an issue. For instance, the Longwood Field Hockey team has always held hands during the National Anthem, so today this has the potential to be called standing in protest of the Anthem or even disrespectful to some degree from other individuals who see the actions.
Austin also states how his biggest thoughts on the protest is that the college athletes know why if they want to protest why they are protesting.
“Are you doing because it’s something you seen on Television or are you doing it because you know all the issues and believe in them,” says Austin.
Today, politics has connected itself with the protest by saying if that these protests have been against our military and the people who gave their lives for the United States of America. Messages can be altered over periods of time and the meaning can be changed, just from one person to another. When these protests first began, Colin Kaepernick, proclaimed that he knelt for the Anthem because of racial injustice.
Quote from Kaepernick that he told to NFL.com’s Steve Wyche :
“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses Black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder.”
Longwood University’s Basketball season is about to begin and Austin feels it’s one of the biggest platform that could be used for protest. However, will it be something the athletes want to partake in or will they stray away from the issue that has become so controversial in the past year explained by Austin.
“I told the teams, whatever you are protesting for, do you think that message will be heard from you protesting the Flag?” “When there is definitely a group whether they disagree or not they will feel you are disrespecting the flag so knowing that, do you still want to partake in protests,” said Austin.
According to Austin, the NCAA has not said anything to him about the potential flag protest that may occur. However, that he has reached out to other Athletic Directors across the Big South Conference and how they will deal with protests that may come and how to go about not forgetting that protest is a form of free speech.