When San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat in a preseason NFL game as the national anthem rang throughout the stadium and on national television, he launched a series of national anthem protests across professional, collegiate and high school sports.
Athletes across those levels have refrained from singing or standing during the national anthem, and instead, they have taken a knee, raised their fists or sat down on their benches to protest the transgressions against people of color in the United States.
While forms of the protest have not occurred on Bellarmine University’s campus, student-athletes have taken notice to the news about the protests.
Junior basketball guard Raven Merriweather said she was confused about the protests at first until she gained a better understanding of their significance.
“Honestly, it doesn’t really bother me. It’s just another form of protesting,” said Merriweather. “Everyone has the right to protest and stand for what they believe in, and I think that that’s just another type of freedom of speech.”
Although Bellarmine does not have any university-wide policies about how athletes are supposed to present themselves during the national anthem, the men’s basketball team has a policy for their players to follow.
Head coach Scott Davenport said while he was an assistant at the University of Louisville, a veteran asked him to have the team stand together and put their hands over their hearts, and it really hit home for him.
“Our team’s policy is that we are all involved and that everyone has their hand on their heart,” Davenport said. “When I came to Bellarmine, I said if it meant that much for him to call me, then it is the least we could do. To me, it is just a matter of respect.”
Most teams do not have a strict policy like men’s basketball, but there are other forms of unspoken policies among teams.
Senior soccer forward Luke Mocherman said his coach has never told their team what to do during the national anthem.
“I think there is an unspoken code of conduct to show respect, but no policy set forth,” Mocherman said.
Head baseball coach Larry Owens said his team does not have a policy, but they are expected to respect the flag.
“When our national anthem is played, it is an opportunity to remember and pay our respects for the people who died for that flag,” Owens said. “That is how we are going to handle it as a team. When they play the anthem, we (will) stand up and put our hands behind our back or over our hearts and pay attention to the flag.”
The Bellarmine Black Student Union (BSU) represents the expressions and concerns of both the black and minority communities on campus, and members are well aware of the rise in the Kaepernick-inspired protests.
BSU President Shalonte Barhamn said it has been a topic of discussion in many of her sociology classes and her teachers have asked about their thoughts on the situation.
“I personally don’t have a problem with (Kaepernick) enacting his use of speech,” Barhamn said. “Other people (in my classes) said it is disrespectful to the veterans that fought for this country. I countered with, ‘Well, they did fight for his right to speak for what he wants’.”