The First Amendment is one many Americans hold near and dear, but with members of the NFL and other sports organizations protesting the National Anthem, the limits of what people deem as appropriate have been tested significantly.
The conflict is so widespread that it’s even reaching college campuses, including St. Cloud State University. On Wednesday, student-athletes met with Interim President Ashish Vaidya, coaches, and other administrators, to discuss the recent events and talk about what the University can and cannot let them do.
Since SCSU is a public institution, the university is not allowed to punish students for sitting or linking arms during the national anthem and says if they choose to do so, they will support them in their efforts. However, some coaches want their players to take into consideration why they are protesting and how it might make some of their loyal fans feel.
But for most of the athletes, it doesn’t sound like there are big plans to demonstrate. Most, are actually split on whether they think it’s okay.
SCSU Women’s basketball player, Kassidy Steen said they should have a right to protest, but wants them to consider who fought for America when they do that.
“You should have respect for the flag and the people who fought and risked their lives for our freedom of speech,” she said.
Chris Antoine, a football player for SCSU said he’s all about protesting because the First Amendment gives people the right to do so, but said he doesn’t want to participate unless it’s a team effort.
“We do everything together as is,” he said. “We go lifting in the mornings together, we go to practice together, if we are going to do something, we should do it together.”
However, he mentioned it might not happen because he and his teammates do not all have the same outlook on the issue.
“We just kind of keep it under the table,” Antoine said.
The controversy began on the national level just last year when San Fransisco 49ers Quarterback, Colin Kaepernick began kneeling during the national anthem – causing controversy across the country, with many calling it “unpatriotic” and “disrespectful.”
It was then brought back when President Donald Trump gave a speech in Huntsville, Alabama promoting then-senate candidate Luther Strange, remarking: “Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners when someone disrespects our flag to say get that son-of-a b**** off the field right now?”
NFL Commissioner, Roger Goodell then released a statement condemning the president for his words, saying they demonstrated a lack of respect for his organization. Since then, teams across the country have been linking arms and kneeling in solidarity.
Both Antoine and Steen said if there was a SCSU athlete-wide plan to kneel or link arms during the national anthem they would do it, despite the disagreement, because both believe it’s important to show support for their teammates and friends.
“If everyone does it, then people will look at us and say we’re sending a strong message,” Steen said.
“It would be awesome to see people standing for what they believe in,” Antoine also said. “I believe in standing for freedom of speech and it’s cool to see that.”
As the fall athletic season continues, there are no plans to protest the national anthem, but only time will tell if it comes around.