Back in 2016, San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started kneeling during the national anthem to protest police brutality, social injustice and racial inequality. Since 2016, Kaepernick has continued his protest with an increased following as well as increased controversy.
Kaepernick has used kneeling during the national anthem as a way to stand up for what he believes is wrong with the goal of allowing a conversation to begin about controversial topics.
As Kaepernick has stated, “I have to stand up for people that are oppressed. If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
Since 2016, Kaepernick’s protest has evolved into a movement. Recently, President Trump has shared his opinion on the matter, which is that it is “a total disrespect of our heritage and everything that we stand for” when one kneels during the national anthem.
With all of this controversy in the NFL, it is no wonder that players at the collegiate level have begun to stand up for what they believe in as well.
A recent article in the Washington Post detailed how a football player for NCAA Division III Albright College, a school in the same conference as Wilkes University, has been cut for kneeling during the anthem.
The athletes had agreed to kneel during the coin flip, but sophomore Gyree Durante was cut from the team after he took a knee during the anthem.
Later that week, Durante, and two other unidentified players who also kneeled, were offered reinstatement after a review of the situation; Albright College President Jacquelyn Fetrow stated that the review “provided greater clarity and led to reinstatement offers.”
As the situation has continued to grow, there is always the possibility that students here at Wilkes University have partaken in or will start following the kneeling trend.
With this, comes questions of how the Wilkes University Athletic Department would handle the situation, as well as student’s perspectives.
According to Wilkes University Athletic Director Addy Malatesta, “There is no set policy in place, but we believe in a common sense approach, such that we will respect a student-athlete just as we expect them to respect us. We also expect two-way communication between our student-athletes and staff.”
At Wilkes University, it is understood that peaceful protests will be supported, but in turn the Athletic Department expects conversation.
As for the Middle Atlantic Conference, Executive Director Ken Andrews echoes Director Malatesta’s explanation, stating, “We don’t have any policy as it is more of an institutional matter. Even if we did, it would be impossible to enforce.”
Based on the statements from both Malatesta and Andrews, athletes are allowed to protest at sporting events because there is no policy on the matter, but it is to be done peacefully with communication as a result.
Following the directors’ statements, student-athletes expressed their opinions on the matter.
Freshman linebacker for the football team, Aidan Sinisgalli, states, “I agree with as to why athletes are taking a knee, but I feel that there’s another way for them to express it.”
In addition to Sinisgalli’s viewpoint, freshman shortstop for the baseball team, Michael Patrizio states, “A person does have the right to kneel, but I think it is being blown out of proportion. In my opinion, yes it is disrespectful to the country, but everyone has their own beliefs and they need to be respected. Personally, I would never kneel, but I understand why it’s being done.”
Similarly to Sinisgalli’s perspective, Patrizio noted that there are other ways in which police brutality, social injustice and racial inequality can be protested, stating, “I agree with Aidan that there are other ways for it to be protested, such as going to Washington (D.C.) and standing out in front of the White House and peacefully protesting, rather than protesting before a sporting event.”
Furthermore, Patrizio also expressed another viewpoint that has not been widespread, stating, “I believe the media over-exaggerates with sports writers writing about players kneeling instead of writing about the actual game. Ultimately, it’s supposed to be about the game; the anthem is a formality that’s become a part of the game now. In my opinion, people aren’t there to watch someone kneel or hold up their fist. When I go to a Jets game, I’m not there to watch Muhammad Wilkerson take a knee, I’m there to watch him light up Tom Brady and his offense.”
Since Kaepernick’s initial protest, kneeling during the national anthem has taken off into a movement among various sports teams and into the collegiate level. Adults, coaches, students, athletes and numerous other individuals have many varying opinions, hence why this is such a controversial topic.