Back in 2017, I posted the following article, which was written in response to the aftermath of the Colin Kaepernick season of protest and the question was raised about if we would see similar protests in the following college football and college basketball season. And in 2017, the comments section was much of what you would have expected:
“If you don’t understand what our flag truly represents, and think of as just cloth, then YOU are part of the problem.”
“We live in a place that says the reason that I don’t sympathize with a million dollar football player who s*** on the only country that would make him a millionaire for being a football player is because of my white privilege”
“I’ll never come to another Kentucky game again if they want to protest they can do it some other way they have that right but you don’t get to disrespect my family who has fought overseas and risked their lives so these kids could play football stand up and show some respect”
And there are many more but you get the picture. And in 2016-17, public polling should that the majority of people did not feel comfortable or support kneeling for the national anthem. And from what I remember, no UK athletes protested that season. So none of the coaches or the fanbase as a whole had to really deal with that issue.
But now as we slowly approach a possible 2020 season, a lot has changed. Not only have the protests over the past couple weeks been larger and most widespread on the topic of inequality than any time in at least 20 years, the overall public support of these protests has switched. Polling now shows that 55-60% of people support what the protests have stood for and a little over 50% of people support public protests by athletes during the national anthem. So while the idea of college kids protesting in 2017 seemed “risky” at that time, it is almost inevitable that we are going to see that in 2020. Not only have countless pro athletes already come out and said they will be kneeling during the NFL/NBA seasons, and college kids are always going to emulate the pros, but we have already seen many college athletes making public statements or displays of support. We are going to see protests and we are going to see some coaches attempt to stomp down those protests, probably not to their favor. But you know how controlling some of these guys are and they won’t want attention taken away from the games.
We’ve already seen Mark Stoops and the UK football team and staff publicly protest and the sense that I got was there was a HIGH level of support among this fanbase about those actions. I know I was certainly proud of my team for their actions on this issue. But walking the streets in BLM shirts is one thing. Kneeling during the anthem could certainly get a different response. So have minds been changed about what that kind of protest and whether a UK player or players protesting during the anthem would affect your fanhood in 2020?
And let’s be honest, we clearly have two coaches who are supporters of the protest and the issues facing our society right now. And they coach teams of predominantly African-American players as well. I have no idea what they suggestion would be in terms of protesting during the anthem but I can say that I am incredibly proud that we have 2 coaches who are considerate about their players and the social issues that face them. The actions of Mark Stoops last week were some of the most courageous and impressive of any UK coach in my lifetime. Point being, we absolutely could see action from our players this fall. Is it time to have full support of these 18-22 year old men and their feelings on their lives? Or is an anthem protest still too far for you?