If you pay attention to sports or politics, chances are you have heard about San Francisco 49ers’ backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s silent protest, in which he refuses to stand during the traditional playing of the national anthem before games.
Kaepernick is protesting the racial oppression he believes exists in America, specifically in light of recent instances of police brutality in Minnesota and Louisiana, and even more recently in Tulsa, Okla. and Charlotte, N.C. Now, two members of the University of Dallas men’s basketball team are planning to join that protest.
Junior Manny Calton and sophomore Prince Giadolor are African-American students on the basketball team who are planning to take a knee rather than stand during the national anthem prior to basketball games.
“I feel like it’s necessary to do,” Giadolor said. “Because although America is a great country, I don’t feel comfortable holding my hand over my heart when people can excoriate Colin Kaepernick for kneeling during the national anthem, but when an African-American male is shot dead and left in the street, the headlines are dominated by Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt.”
Calton said that the most recent shooting of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa drove him over the edge.
“I felt like I needed to make a difference because lately it’s been bugging me, all the deaths, all the oppression that we’ve been fighting against, and I’ve more or less been quiet about it,” Calton said. “I feel like this is one of the things I could do to protest like this.”
Both believe that this protest will make an impact, even if it is not on the same scale as Kaepernick’s.
“Millions of people aren’t going to be watching, but I feel like it’s necessary to do,” Giadolor said, adding that he feels like he has a duty and obligation to stand for what he believes in.
Both players expect to receive criticism from the mostly conservative campus.
“There probably will be backlash,” Giadolor said. “But I don’t really care.”
“I’m only concerned about my teammates and my family [receiving backlash], but not about myself,” Calton said.
Calton worries that when the team travels to opposing schools, his teammates and family will be the subject of criticism from people associated with other universities.
Calton added that while he may offend some, this is not his intent.
Giadolor does not worry about offending others, because he believes that kneeling rather than sitting will show the proper amount of respect to the flag. He says that sitting is completely non-participatory, while kneeling shows involvement.
When it comes to the school, Giadolor does not feel that he is oppressed on this campus.
“No matter where I go there’s always going to be some racial bias,” Giadolor said, but he does not feel like he is discriminated against at the university. Calton on the other hand says he often receives looks from people of other skin colors.
Calton has already spoken to head coach Jared Samples about his plans, and intends to tell athletic director Dick Strockbine as well. Calton said that Samples accepts Calton’s decision.
Samples declined to comment on the matter until he is able to address the decision with the entire team.
Professional athletes have recently been pressured by the media to use their platforms to take political stands. Calton and Giadolor are both in agreement that student-athletes have an obligation to do the same.
“Much is given, much is required,” Calton said, “So they are obliged to [speak out].”
Neither of them support instances where athletes try to stay quiet or deflect issues to other things. As Giadolor said, what Colin Kaepernick is doing is a true protest.
“A true protest causes you to take sides, and that causes tension, and that’s when change happens,” Giadolor said.
Calton also pointed to something Kaepernick said in defense of his protest: The flag is supposed to stand for the land of the free, and he does not feel that this is true for everyone in America today.
“That really spoke to me and made me think that [the land of the free] didn’t apply to me either,” Calton said.