Political protests continue to take shape

A collective of Detroit Lions take a knee during the national anthem.  Photo courtesy of Getty Images, Rey Del Rio

A collective of Detroit Lions take a knee during the national anthem. Photo courtesy of Getty Images, Rey Del Rio

Justin Couchot

Athletes across professional sports are taking their views on equality to the playing field in an attempt to make a statement.

While players across football have been showing their views and displeasure for almost a year now, other players in other sports are catching on. On Aug. 26, 2016, during a preseason game, former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick first sat down during the playing of the national anthem in an attempt to protest ongoing racial inequality.

Technically, the NFL handbook does not cover the actions that may make a political stance. In Article 8 of the NFL player handbook, it states:

“The league will not grant permission for any club or player to wear, display or otherwise convey messages through helmet decals, arm bands, jersey patches or other items affixed to game uniforms or equipment, which relate to political activities or causes…”

This may be the problem. While most are saying this is an issue with the players, it may be more of an issue with the players association and NFL leadership itself.

The NBA however, does have an official rule about this.

“Players, coaches, and trainers are to stand and line up in a dignified posture along the sidelines or on the foul line during the playing of the National Anthem”

Following the Kaepernick kneeling, more athlete protests have come to the Bay Area. After careful thought, Oakland Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell decided it was his turn to make a stance.

Coming from a military family, Maxwell knew he was going to be subject to plenty of criticism. However, following this tweet by President Trump, Maxwell had, had enough.


Teammate Mark Canha, who grew up in the Bay Area, said that Maxwell had informed him of his decision prior to the game, and the team was in full support. While Canha said that he would not be kneeling, he would be next to Maxwell with his hand on his shoulder in full support.

Following this, other athletes began to take a stance. Following NFL and then Maxwell’s protests. San Jose Sharks forward Joel Ward, one of the few African-American hockey players in the NHL who originally stated via twitter that he may be kneeling come the start of the season, has since changed his mind. Instead, Ward said this:

“Let our collective focus be on bridging the gap between communities – on working to heal generations of unequal treatment of people of color in the United States of America – I will continue to work within my community to help improve the lives of others, and I intend to partner with groups dedicated to bridging racial inequality and fostering a better relationship between law enforcement and people of all color.”

While professional sports are obviously taking a stance, Chico State has not been ignoring it either. With most of the protests going on in football, and Chico State not having a football team this has not stopped the protests. Last volleyball season, the school had a visiting volleyball player kneel, and this is when Athletic director Anita Barker realized action needed to happen.

The first change made was changing the language used prior to playing the national anthem. “Instead of saying please stand for the national anthem, we say please join us as we celebrate the playing of the national anthem,” said Barker. She went on to say that this is all about coming together and inclusiveness. Rather than focusing on those kneeling, it also includes those who are unable to stand.

Barker finished by giving the overarching view on the protests and how they plan to go about dealing with them. “Unless someone is disruptive, we are not gonna do anything. They have the freedom to express their values however they choose,” Barker said.

While some may say protesting is wrong, it all comes down to the reasoning behind it. In the U.S., the right to protest is a staple our country is built upon in the Constitution. But are all of our rights right?

“I believe in the goodness of a free society. And I believe that the society can remain good only as long as we are willing to fight for it, and to fight against whatever imperfections may exist.” –Jackie Robinson

Justin Couchot can be reached at [email protected] or @JCouchot_Sports on Twitter.