Taking a Knee

UVenus responds to recent protests against racial inequality. 

October 16, 2017

Taking a knee has spread from the NFL to college campuses. A Division III football player at Albright College, a  private liberal arts college, was dismissed from his team for kneeling during the national anthem before a game last weekend.  The dismissal was justified by the College because the team had agreed to knee during the coin toss, and stand during the anthem, and this student’s actions broke the team’s trust.

At Kennesaw State University, cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem.  Following that incident, the university made a policy change to the pregame activities that kept the cheerleaders off the field during the national anthem.  Kennesaw State claims that the timing of the policy change was a coincidence.

Has “taking a knee” reached any of the athletic teams on your campus, or are students protesting during the national anthem in other ways?   How and what are students protesting on your campus?


Elizabeth Lewis Pardoe, Evanston IL

Our university football team has taken to entering the field with arms interlocked, but the local high school (my alma mater) teams and marching band have all taken a knee.  I was particularly pleased that women’s, men’s, and mixed organizations did so as evidence that anyone not only men of color can and should protest oppression.  I utterly fail to comprehend how a stance used for supplication (one kneels to pray as well as to be knighted) could ever be interpreted as disrespectful.  To me these athletes demonstrate greater respect than those who merely lay their hands over their hearts.  To kneel is demonstrate deference to something greater and more important than oneself.  I was pleased when photos of Dr. King and others kneeling in prayer before their civil rights protests circulated on social media to highlight the appropriate historical context for the current movement.


Lee Skallerup Bessette, Fredericksburg VA

I did a quick and completely unscientific poll, and it doesn’t seem that any of our sports teams or athletes are doing anything, nor has our school made any statement about protests were they to happen (there is a good piece on some reactions in athletics in our school newspaper). This isn’t that surprising, since we are a DIII school with no football team, and thus sports aren’t central to our campus culture. At the same time, our campus is known to be a bit more radical and activist, so I am a little surprised there hasn’t been more buzz around potential protests. Personally, I come from a place (Montreal, Quebec, Canada) where sports have long been deeply entrenched in the politics. A riot, sparked by the perceived mistreatment of a French-Canadian player playing on a French-Canadian team, helped set off a massive cultural revolution in the province of Quebec. Sports has never been a-political for me and the place I am from. We never just “stuck to sports.”

Gwendolyn Beetham, Philadelphia PA

I haven’t been to a sports event here yet, but I’ll be going to my first University of Pennsylvania football game this weekend and will report back. More broadly, though, I am glad to see more university, college, and even high school teams taking part in this form of First Amendment-protected protest against racial inequality. I’ve also been glad to see recent attention to the gender dynamics of this issue. See, for example, this article about how the WNBA has been protesting racial injustice for nearly 15 months, and recent pieces on cheerleaders taking part in these efforts.

(Also, can’t help but note that this discussion is taking place almost 50 years to the day of the famous “Black Power Salute” by Tommie Smith and John Carlos during the 1968 Olympics.)


How and what are students protesting on your campus?


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