Kneeling protest comes to BVU
STORM LAKE — A few Buena Vista University football athletes and many of the football cheerleaders chose to take a knee during the playing of the national anthem Saturday, for the first time, before BVU’s homecoming game.
BVU President Joshua Merchant responded with a statement encouraging open discourse and free expression.
“In light of recent events across the country and our homecoming game this Saturday, I feel compelled to communicate some of my core beliefs relative to Buena Vista University,” he wrote. “BVU respects our military members and our veterans. We also respect the rights of our students, employees, alumni, fans and friends to demonstrate their civil liberties in ways that are peaceful and lawful. As an institution of higher learning, BVU believes in open discourse. Through our conversations, BVU seeks to better understand our opinions and the opinions of those whose differ from our own. I simply ask that our community members respect one another through language and action.”
He said there have been opportunities for open discussion about this issue on campus.
Prior to the game, some of the players and cheerleaders planned to kneel during the anthem, which follows a movement by NFL players and other athletes around the county to express concern about racial injustice. The movement gained momentum and spread to the collegiate ranks and even youth sports with players kneeling or linking arms, as President Donald Trump lashed out at players who chose to kneel, in a recent rally appearance and in social media posts.
The BVU student newspaper, The Tack, reported prior to the game that football athletes had met for discussions on the issues and viewpoints during the week, with individual athletes left to choose for themselves whether to stand or kneel during the anthem.
“We think everybody’s entitled to their own voice,” senior co-captain Griffin Redding was quoted. “Whatever way the athletes on our team wish to use their voice, we’ll support 100 percent.”
Head coach Grant Mollring said players have been encouraged to be open minded and to learn from others’ perspectives.
“I think we’ve done a pretty good job this week educating them as to why this issue has come up and why the NFL is taking the stances they have in terms of the people taking a knee and the people supporting them,” Mollring told The Tack. “So I feel comfortable in knowing that our guys understand the issue at hand.
“My wish and hope for our football team is that we present a unified front to recognize that there are injustices still taking place in today’s society, but that we are unified in support of each other’s beliefs and positions.”
Students from BVU’s Black Student Union also planned to join the protest on Saturday by taking a knee during the national anthem.
The protest received immediate backlash on the college newspaper’s web site.
A former coach said he would never have allowed the kneeling, and that any athletes who had wanted to take such action would have been off his team. “Politics needs to stay out of it,” he said, indicating that he and his wife would stop making donations to the university over such action.
A 1980 graduate and Naval officer said, “We went to BV to get a great education and to play D3 sports, not to be political activists.” He predicted that alumni will be “done with BVU” if the coaches allowed such action.
Another graduate responded, “Please get involved in the community and help educate young minds on what the national anthem is all about.
Taking a knee at the football game is not the right platform. As a former player and graduate of BVU, I’m disappointed to see this.”
Most of the response on the situation on the Pilot-Tribune’s Facebook page over the weekend was also strongly against the kneeling protests, some saying they would no longer support or attend games at BVU, but a few voiced support for the players’ rights.
“It's their right ... no reason to hate them, or withhold donations to them, or alienate them. Also don't put words in their mouths and make their actions mean something different than what they are doing it for. They are not saying anything about our military, or about soldiers that have died protecting our freedoms, they are saying they sympathize to unfair racial issues. Believe in it or not, let them be them,” one man said.