Dickinson Athletes Do Not Indicate Interest in Kneeling During National Anthem

Rachael Franchini ’19, Editor-in-Chief

The Dickinson campus is split on the issue of kneeling during the national anthem to protest police violence and brutality against people of color, but Dickinson athletes do not seem to intend to kneel anytime soon.

“I don’t mind players taking a knee for the national anthem,” said Marcus Witherspoon ’20, Dickinson football player. “To my knowledge no one [on the Dickinson football team] is planning on kneeling.”

“As a football player, I believe people that…citizens in general have every right to not stand for the national anthem if they see fit,” stated James Lotz ’20, another football player. “So far, we’ve [the football team] all stood together for the national anthem.”

Ever since Colin Kaepernick sat on the bench during a preseason game Aug. 28, 2016 during the opening ceremony and the playing of the national anthem, the trend has taken hold and expanded among the National Football League (NFL). This form of protest has become extremely controversial. However, the situation recently received increased press when Trump said at a Sept. 22 rally for Alabama Republican Senate candidate Luther Strange that NFL owners should respond to the kneeling by saying, “Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!”, according to CNN News. A day later, on Sept. 23, he also tweeted:

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect…our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

Emma Larson-Whittaker ’21, a swimmer commented, “Trump’s comment about their managers needing to fire those “sons of [b*tches]” was completely out of line…I think that their reasoning is totally sound…They’re not disrespecting the flag, they’re trying to make a point about the unfairness in America.”

Trent Morgan ’21, cited hypocrisy as an issue with the protest. “I think it is kind of hypocritical because they’re kneeling and disrespecting the flag which represents the reason they are able to kneel.” He does not stand alone in this opinion.

Bridget Williams ’20, a Dickinson basketball player believes that, “you should stand for the anthem…So many people died for the flag, there’s other ways to protest civil issues.”

“Football players have a great platform to bring awareness to this issue that affects a large percentage of the NFL given that most of the players are African Americans,” Devon Korhammer ’18, captain of the swim team stated of the platform available with this protest. “To say that people should be fired from their job or should be penalized in some way for expressing their rights as an American should not be tolerated…”

Dickinson football player Aturo Adkins ’18 stated, “I recognize that NFL players are kneeling but they also have the platform to do it. I also realize that our country has its problems, but I will be standing because I can only control the way I carry myself as a person in this country.”

According to Athletic Director Joe Giunta, there have been discussions about kneeling within the department.

“I’m not aware of anyone that has knelt or reacted in any way around the national anthem,” he said in an email to The Dickinsonian, of the protest in relation to Dickinson athletes.

He also cited the college policy on the national anthem, which was drafted in fall 2016 by and with then-Interim President Neil Weissman:

“As a college chartered in the wake of the American Revolution to educate leaders for the new nation, we have profound respect for the United States and the flag.  At the same time, having been founded by a signer of the archetypical American protest document – the Declaration of Independence, we also fully respect the right to engage in non-violent protest.”

Softball coach Matthew Richwine echoed that this policy was issued during the initial protests in 2016, and added that “the expectations of the athletic department are no different than those of the college.”

“No coach of AD (Athletic Director) has said anything to us,” said Witherspoon, when asked if coaches had brought up the issue to the team. “It hasn’t really been discussed in our locker room. The most I heard is that some people may not like it, but they understand that the person kneeling has the freedom to do so.”

“Personally,” stated Lotz, “With the football team, our coach or the AD (Athletic Director) hasn’t directly spoken to us, but I’ve heard of the lacrosse team, their coach has talked to them…men’s lacrosse…there’s a guy in my religion class who’s on the lacrosse team who said something about it.”

When asked about this claim, the men’s lacrosse coach, David Webster, said in an email to The Dickinsonian that “I asked the team before a recent practice what they thought of the NFL players stance. We had a quick conversation and moved on…nobody expressed any interest in kneeling.”