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Koala athletics weighs-in on NFL protests during the national anthem

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Skye Shaw & Jerrica Thomas, staff writers

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Several NFL professional football players are kneeling at games in protest against comments President Trump made on Sept. 22.

President Trump was campaigning in Huntsville, AL for Sen. Luther Strange, when he gave a speech criticizing the NFL owners for allowing players to kneel or sit out during the national anthem. He criticized the penalization of players for “illegal hits to the head,” as reported by The New York Times.

Trump later made a series of tweets Sept. 23 and 24. “Sports fans should never condone players that do not stand proud for their National Anthem or their Country. NFL should change policy!” as reported by Benjamin Hoffman, Victor Mather and Jacey Fortin of the New York Times.

The Columbia College athletics department weighed in on how the NFL protests relate to them as collegiate coaches and student athletes.

“If that’s what they choose to do, then that’s what they choose to do,” said Jef Meagely,  assistant coach for the women’s volleyball team at Columbia College, in regards to what he would do about one of his players kneeling or not putting her right hand over her heart. Meagely is a biracial (African-American and Caucasian) coach; “kneeling is not disrespectful,” said Meagely.

Columbia College Athletics
Keyaira Stevenson

“I personally don’t put my hand over my heart during the national anthem”, said Keyaira Stevenson, the head coach for the women’s volleyball team at Columbia College. Stevenson is the only African-American woman within the athletics department at Columbia College. “I feel like everyone should respect each other’s beliefs,” she said in regards to whether she would take actions if one of her players decides to kneel during the national anthem.

For the women’s soccer team, the anthem is a longstanding pre-game tradition, according to Robert Hunter, head coach of the women’s soccer team.

“They line up, face the flag and then each of them puts their hand on the one in front of them, on their shoulder, just as a show of unity, but also respect,” Hunter said.

Hannah Fox, soccer team captain and senior biology major, thinks the NFL protests haven’t affected athletes much at Columbia College. “As a college athlete, I feel like everyone has their own opinion. So to me, I think I’d never challenge someone,” said Fox.

Megan Rapinoe, a U.S. women’s national soccer team player, knelt in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick last year.

“And after she did, they basically said, ‘Look. You have two options: you stand and show respect to the flag or you’re never going to play for the U.S. again.’ It’s basically how they [the national women’s soccer league] handled it,” Hunter said. “And you know, in that situation, it’s still a little bit different because they’re literally representing the United States.”

Columbia College soccer team during the National Anthem.

On Sept. 27 a few players knelt or sat down for the anthem. The Seattle Seahawks were on the field for the anthem, as reported by Hoffman and Ken Belson of the New York Times. Six players were seated. Instead of skipping the anthem, the Seahawks created the Players Equality and Justice for All Action Fund.

Thirty members of the San Francisco 49ers knelt for the anthem with their hands over their hearts with their general manager, John Lynch, according to Hoffman and Belson.

Marshawn Lynch of the Oakland Raiders wore a T-shirt that read, “Everybody vs. Trump,” before their game against the Denver Broncos, according to Hoffman and Belson.

The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Tennessee Titans remained in the locker room during the national anthem, according to Hoffman and Belson .

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Koala athletics weighs-in on NFL protests during the national anthem