WRITTEN BY: TOM HANSLIN @tomhanslin
PHILADELPHIA – In the National Football League, it is considered tradition for the United States’ national anthem to be played or preformed prior to kickoff – with all players standing at attention on the sidelines, honoring the song and American flag in unison. In years past, failure to fulfill those obligations could have potentially resulted in fines, suspensions, and other measures of discipline by the NFL.
However, the same practices do not apply to the college football landscape. For some programs, the gameday itinerary has the national anthem arranged to play before fans even see the teams in uniform. Through this routine, the student athletes hear the anthem from inside the locker rooms or stadium tunnels, and await the marching band’s welcome to take the field and begin the game.
Because of this, seldom have college football teams been spotted protesting the national anthem in peace before games – contrary to what has occurred more recently on the professional stage. Over the weekend, NFL teams took part in a widespread protest during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” in response to President Donald Trump’s controversial comments which condemned Colin Kaepernick and other NFL players who drop to one knee during the anthem.
Although student athletes are not always provided a platform to express political beliefs or opinions on gameday, some of Temple University’s football players offered their two cents on the NFL’s protests to WHIP Radio following practice on Tuesday.
Jacob Martin, senior defensive end
“I have a lot of family that served [in the military]. Obviously, being a black man in America, you’re put in some tough situations. I don’t disagree with what [the NFL] is doing. I support it fully. It’s a right in this country to be able to speak how you want to speak and protest how you want to protest, as long as it’s peaceful. They’re using their platform to do that, and I have no problem with that.
“I think it’s a great cause. I think it means a lot to African-Americans – and other people of color in this country – to see athletes using their platform. Because often times you see athletes not speaking about political problems. That’s just the world we’re in. Everything is just straight-forward. There’s really no racial tensions or anything like that within athletics in general.
“You don’t really talk about that as being an athlete, or race doesn’t really come up. We have white, black teammates, you have Asian-American teammates, you have Spanish-American teammates, you never know. And things like that don’t get talked about. So, I think they’re using the platform to support and go after something they truly believe in.”
Leon Johnson, redshirt senior offensive tackle
“It’s touchy, but I’ll be honest. I’m in favor of what’s going on. I like the cohesiveness of everybody, the support of everybody. Of course, our job isn’t to be in politics – we’re not politicians, we’re student athletes. But I feel like if a team agrees on something, I feel like they should have the support of the team and coaches.
“If the majority of the team says or the leaders of the team say we’re going to do something, then our full participation should be on that. We’ve talked about it amongst ourselves. If you’re paying attention to what’s going on nowadays in the world, you understand why they’re doing it. You understand the cause. It’s not meant to disrespect anything. Part of our constitutional freedoms are to protest. Some people’s ideals don’t align with what those protests are for, but that doesn’t allow them to pick and choose what freedoms we’re allowed to exercise.”
Frank Nutile, redshirt junior quarterback
“I think we’d do something very similar. We’d all be together and unified. This is a very close team we have. It’s a family. So I think whatever the executive decision would want to be, how everyone felt, that’s what we’d do.
“Some people talk about it. It’s a good thing to talk about. You’d rather have everyone talk about it and say their piece and have everyone on the same page. There’s no problems like that here. We’re a unified family, so if one person felt one way, we’d all band together and do what they want to do.”
Chapelle Russell, redshirt sophomore linebacker
“If you believe in something, I feel like you should stand for it. There are guys getting put in some bad positions for exercising their own rights. I think it’s wrong for them to be penalized for believing in what they believe. If you’re trying to exercise your rights, I feel like there shouldn’t be anything wrong with that.
“We haven’t really addressed it that much. We talked about it a little bit today. But everybody believes the same thing. If you’re going to exercise your rights, you have freedom of speech. Whatever you believe in is what you believe in. If people are looking at people the wrong way for just believing in what they want to believe, that’s kind of wrong for them to look at them as a bad person.”
If you want to connect with Tom Hanslin, email him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @tomhanslin.
Michael is an award-winning radio host at WHIP Radio. He has been a staple host on WHIP’s Wake Up Call, and has recently occupied the role of Program Director for the station.