Anthem Protest Opportunities Are Limited In College Football

LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — If Nebraska’s Michael Rose-Ivey and teammates want to kneel during the national anthem again, their next opportunity will be the Nov. 5 game at Ohio State.

Rose-Ivey, Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal each took a knee on the sideline as the anthem was sung at Northwestern last week. Their action sparked statewide debate about whether it was an appropriate setting for their protest of police violence and racial injustice, and Rose-Ivey will meet with the state’s governor next week to discuss the issue.

But teams are in the locker room during the anthem at Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium, so the next time the Huskers are in a game where players are on the field as it plays will be when they go to Ohio.

Unlike in the NFL, where players are on the field for the anthem, the common practice in college football is for teams to be in their locker rooms. Just a handful of schools send teams onto the field for the anthem, limiting the opportunity for the movement to spread as it has in the pros.

David Witty, who oversees game presentation as Nebraska’s senior associate athletic director for marketing and communications, said for as long as anyone in his department can remember, teams have been in the locker room during the anthem in Lincoln. The only exception was the first game following the 9/11 attacks.

At Nebraska, the band plays the anthem on the field and then forms a corridor for the team to run through at the completion of the Tunnel Walk. The tradition started in 1994, with the team shown on the video boards as it exits the locker room and walks through the tunnel to the field as the Alan Parsons Project’s instrumental piece “Sirius” plays.

Many schools use smoke machines and other mechanisms as part of their pregame routines to get the team and the crowd fired up. To pause a couple minutes after a dramatic team entry could be a buzzkill.

“With our whole pregame atmosphere and Tunnel Walk, there’s just never been any kind of talk about changing it,” Witty said.

In the Big Ten, eight of the 14 schools have the teams on the field for the anthem. All Big 12, Pac-12 and Southeastern Conference teams are in their locker rooms during the anthem before home games. Boston College and Pittsburgh are the only Atlantic Coast Conference teams that are on the field for the anthem at home games.

“Most schools are wise enough not to play the national anthem while players are on the field,” Kansas State coach Bill Snyder said. “I concur with that; always have.”

Big Ten teams Illinois, Indiana, Maryland, Nebraska, Penn State and Wisconsin are in their locker rooms during the anthem at home games; Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State, Purdue and Rutgers are on the field.

The anthem protests started in August, with San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick taking a knee before preseason games. Other professional and amateur athletes followed by kneeling or otherwise protesting to call attention to unfair treatment of blacks in the United States.

Protests came to the fore in college games after a week that had riots in Charlotte, North Carolina, and the killing of an unarmed black man in Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Michigan State players Delton Williams, Kenney Lyke and Gabe Sherrod held their right fists in the air while standing on the sideline in East Lansing; Michigan Wolverines Khalid Hill, Mike McCray, Devin Bush, Elysee Mbem-Bosse and Jourdan Lewis did the same before their game in Ann Arbor.

The Wolverines have been on the field for the anthem since 9/11, and spokesman David Ablauf said they request the visiting team do so as well. Ablauf said most have agreed.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said the team has discussed social issues in meetings, but no player has approached him about staging an anthem protest.

Buckeyes quarterback JT Barrett said he doesn’t see himself protesting but wouldn’t have a problem with a teammate who did.

“The main concept behind it is just shedding light on an issue that’s happening in our home, the United States,” Barrett said. “It’s a real issue. I think that’s all (Kaepernick) is trying to do, just shed light on it and let people realize that this is what’s happening and we can change it. It takes everybody, too, and I think that’s the main thing he’s trying to get at.”


Copyright 2016 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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