School responds to sports kneeling protest


Courtesy of Hunter Mitchell/The Kentucky Kernel

The men’s basketball team stands for the National Anthem against the University of Kentucky Nov. 12. The unseeded Catamounts lost to No. 5 Wildcats 73-69.

Locria Courtright, Assistant Sports Editor

Six members of the Saint Michael’s College men’s basketball team, as well as a number of team staff, took a knee during the national anthem before an exhibition game against UVM Nov. 4.

The gesture was met with hostility from the audience of home Catamount fans.

Some audience members shouted at the players to “stand up.”

Others booed.

In the week since, the kneeling has generated a variety of responses.

In a Nov. 8 email to season ticket holders and Victory Club members, athletic director Jeff Schulman condemned the fans’ response to the gesture, and said some of the fans’ actions were seen as harassing.

“I realize that there are varying perspectives on the issue of kneeling during the anthem and I respect the differing opinions that exist,” Schulman said. “However, I also want to emphasize that the university and athletic department are committed to ensuring that our student-athletes and coaches, visiting teams and fans are able to participate and experience our games in an environment that is free from threats, intimidation and/or harassment.”

University President Tom Sullivan echoed Schulman’s sentiments in a Nov. 8 email. Sullivan said he agreed with Schulman’s thoughts on the matter.

“Going forward, I hope that the behavior in Patrick Gym and at UVM will be respectful and civil,” he stated in the email.

Several people of color in the UVM community – including UVM players, students, and alumni – said they were hurt by the crowd’s response.

“[It] really pained me to hear what some members of our home crowd had to say to the young men taking a knee during the anthem,” first-year guard/forward Skyler Nash tweeted.

Former UVM basketball player Dre Wills ‘17 replied to Nash’s comments on Twitter.

“You gotta understand that people don’t care about what us city kids see and go through every day,” Wills tweeted. “They don’t care about our friends not making it to their 21st birthdays. They’re too worried about their own privileged lives.”

Sophomore Reginah Mako, the SGA chair of diversity inclusion and a member of the Black Student Union, echoed Nash’s pain.

She said that she felt “disheartened” and that it “further validated the lack of dialogue between those protesting and those against the protest.”

“The entire protest is rooted in addressing and combating police brutality, but it has been warped and misconstrued to be against the flag when it isn’t,” Mako said.

The gesture of refusing to stand during the national anthem at sporting events grabbed national headlines in the summer of 2016, when then-San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat out the anthem during a preseason game.

In their first game following the protest, the Catamounts visited No. 4 University of Kentucky. The Catamounts did not kneel during the anthem, but rather linked arms, according to Chase Campbell, assistant sports editor of the Kentucky Kernel.

The Catamounts put up a valiant effort, but fell by a score of 73-69.

Their next game is Nov. 17 against Bradley University in Nassau, Bahamas, as part of the Islands of the Bahamas Showcase tournament.

Additional reporting from Lilly Young.