University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds on Tuesday defended the rights of three football players on the University of Nebraska at Lincoln team who dropped to their knees during the playing of the national anthem on Saturday. Bounds said that he "completely opposes" any limits on the athletes' right to protest, The Lincoln Journal-Star reported. The athletes joined in a growing national protest in which athletes do not stand for the national anthem as a protest over police shootings of unarmed black men. Since Saturday's game, a member of the university's Board of Regents has criticized the protest and suggested that those who joined should not be on the football team. Governor Pete Ricketts, a Republican, has called the protest "disgraceful and disrespectful" but said that the players had the right to protest.
Michael Rose-Ivey (right), one of the football players, spoke about his decision, and Omaha.com published a transcript of his remarks, in which he responded to the backlash against the protest.
"As we looked at what's been going on in this country, the injustices that have been taking place primarily against people of color, we all realized that there is a systemic problem in America that needs to be addressed. We felt it was our duty to step up and join the chorus of athletes in the NFL, WNBA, college and high school using their platforms to highlight these issues," he said. "We did this understanding the implications of these actions, but what we didn't expect was the enormous amount of hateful, racially motivated comments we received from friends, peers, fans, members of the media and others about the method of protest. While you may disagree with the method, these reactions further underscore the need for this protest and give us just a small glimpse into the persistent problem of racism in this country and the divisive mentality of some Americans. To make it clear, I am not anti-police, I am not anti-military, nor am I anti-American. I love my country deeply and I appreciate the freedoms it professes to afford me."