Student-Athletes Differ on Anthem Protests

Michael Diakunczak, Reporter

Megan Oldak
The American flag settling over Misericordia’s Mangelsdorf field.

Members of the college community have differing views about athletes kneeling during the national anthem at sports events.

Athletes in the National Football League and Major League Baseball have knelt during the national anthem to protest racial injustice, and some college and high school players have followed suit.

Allison McElheran, sophomore goalie for the women’s lacrosse team, said family tradition makes her believe that athletes should stand during the national anthem.

“While I believe in everyone’s First Amendment  right, I feel that disrespecting the flag and the national anthem is unacceptable.  My opinion may differ from others due to my background. My father spent 21 years in the Army with multiple tours including Iraq, Bosnia and Afghanistan.  He missed important family events to fight for our country’s freedom.  I grew up with the value that the American Flag and the National Anthem were to be respected,” said McElheran.

Illise Wanamaker, sophomore track and field member, believes that the act of kneeling during the anthem destroys national unity.

I’m completely against the kneeling that is taking place in the professional sports world. I understand that purpose behind it but there is a time and place for everything. I believe that it is extremely  disrespectful to the country as a whole and any freedoms we have fought for in this country.”

She added that unity is important for the nation’s standing in the world.

“[Kneeling] makes us look weak as an entire country, and right now more than ever we need to come together,” said Wanamaker.

Some student-athletes support the protests and say they are not intended to disrespect the flag, the national anthem, or people who have sacrificed for their county..

Lenny Watson, junior offensive lineman,  said he  believes that the protests are making the intended point.

“You have a right to free speech and a right to protest peacefully, and honestly I think people are getting butt hurt because they don’t like it. I think the whole protest is doing its job and having people ask about issues that they wouldn’t have asked about before.”

Lena Williams, senior guard for the women’s basketball team, said she believes police violence must be addressed, and protests are not disrespectful.

“I definitely agree with how the protest is addressing police brutality in our country, but I understand why people don’t agree. However, those who are opposed need to know and understand that kneeling during the anthem is freedom of speech and not disrespecting the flag,” Williams added.

Charles Edkins, Director of Athletics, said his opinions about the protests center around his expectations for student-athletes.

“I think people have the right to thoughtfully and respectfully express their views. I would not personally want our student-athletes to take the knee. I would want them to find a way where they understand what the anthem and flag truly represent. And without that, they couldn’t be protesting anyway, so as long as you are respecting the people who allow us to live free, great,” said Edkins.