Students kneeling opens the conversation

Staff Editorial

While the NFL has received national attention as players take a knee during the national anthem, protests have now moved to college basketball courts.

Across the country, some college athletes have started to take a stand by taking a knee during the national anthem.

That movement came to Burlington last week.

When Saint Mike’s players took a knee before last Saturday’s game at UVM – six black college students kneeling surrounded by a largely white audience – they were the picture of respect.

The audience was not. Members of the mainly white crowd booed at the players while the anthem played. They yelled at the Saint Mike’s players and told them to “Stand up.”

Arms linked, heads bowed as the anthem played, St. Mike’s took part in the national protest that has exploded since NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick refused to stand during the anthem before games last year.

“I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said in an August 2016 interview with NFL Media.

Kaepernick, still a free agent halfway through the season, received backlash from the sports community. The President said his protest was un-American.

“Wouldn’t you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag to say, ‘Get that son of a bitch off the field right now, out. He’s fired,’” Trump said at a September campaign rally in Alabama.

The President is no better than the crowd at Saint Mike’s last week. They showed more disrespect to the United States, to the flag and the freedom and progress that it stands for than any of the kneeling players.

Kaepernick and the college students are using the platform they’ve worked hard to get to make a call for improvement in the safety of young black Americans across the U.S.

The Saint Mike’s players are using their voices and bodies to bring the conversation about freedom and equality to Vermont. President Trump – and local fans – are using their jeers and Tweets to try to shut that conversation down.

The players are Americans. These young college students are more worthy of respect than those in the stands, and the one running our nation from his Twitter account.