“If they feel like they need to bring a point across and that’s the only way to do it, I’m behind their back,” Athletic Director Chris Jacob said.
Though no Clark teams or athletes have yet reportedly taken a knee this season in protest of the treatment of African Americans, both Jacobs and men’s basketball head coach Kevin Johnson will support any students right to peacefully protest.
The debate around protesting during the anthem started a little over a year ago when former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a symbolic knee in protest of the treatment of black Americans in the United States.
Recently, the issue became controversial when President Trump commented on the protests, claiming that a player who opts to protest is a “son of a bitch” and that they should be fired.
Following Trump’s comments, more athletes across the nation have joined in the protest, both professionally and recreationally. The issue is now a major political discussion, as well.
Jacob said no students have come to him about the issue, but said that if someone did protest he would know. While Jacob said he wouldn’t choose a side, as athletic director he would put the wellbeing of students as his top priority.
Men’s basketball coach Kevin Johnson agrees. Johnson said that if any of his players wanted to express their opinion through this protest they have a right to do so, but the current issue has not yet been brought up with his team.
This isn’t the first sports protest to stir up controversy like this, according to Gregory Finley, a Political Science instruction at Clark.
In the 1968 Olympics in Mexico City, Tommie Smith and John Carlos stood on the podium after competing in the 200-meter running event to recieve their gold and bronze medals. As they received their awards, they each held a fist in the air for the entirety of the national anthem as a protest for human rights.
“Depending on who you are and what you think,” said Finley said, “it was either great or terrible.”
According to Finley, this controversy is a newer facet to America’s social system. When he was in high school, the professor said that while some people refused to stand for the anthem in order to protest the Vietnam War, no one took the opportunity to protest through the refusal of participating in the national anthem.
“No one ever challenged the idea ‘you had to stand,’” Finley said, adding that there has always been that freedom of protest.
Because of this, Finley said Trump was in the wrong by making these comments and that the issue is worth discussing in political conversation.
“He has the right to his opinion,” Finley said, “but he doesn’t have the right to use his office to say ‘these guys should be fired’ — it’s an abuse of his power.”
Khalil Rivera, a pitcher for Clark’s baseball team hasn’t seen the protest taking place, and he hasn’t participated. But Rivera said one of the things that makes America great is the right to protest.
Rivera, who has family living in Puerto Rico, said the president should focus on other matters, including relief for the island that was recently ravaged by hurricanes. Rivera does not plan to kneel but supports others right to choose.
Rivera. “I feel like if somebody doesn’t want to take a stand, or do something
during the pledge, they don’t necessarily have to. That’s the great thing about
living in this country, you’re not obligated to do anything.”