Golden: Northwestern football players should be actively encouraged to participate in anthem protests

Andrew Golden, Reporter

On Sept. 30, Northwestern football players locked arms as a form of protest before their game against Wisconsin.

While I was happy to see that the Wildcats were using their platforms to speak out for what they believe in, I felt the gesture was inadequate. Individuals who felt strongly about the topic should’ve used their platform to publicly kneel.

Professional players no longer have that opportunity. Yesterday, NFL owners unanimously agreed to a policy that requires players to stand and “show respect” during the national anthem or else risk being fined, according to a statement from commissioner Roger Goodell. However, the new rule does allow players to wait in the locker room until after the anthem is played.

Colin Kaepernick, along with other NFL players, began kneeling in 2016 to protest police brutality against African Americans in the U.S. This trend spread around the country as kids of all ages — from middle school through college — wanted to follow the NFL stars. However, the protests received backlash from veterans, team owners and President Donald Trump.

Usually, college football players are in the locker room instead of on the field for the national anthem due to the timing of pregame team introductions. At Northwestern, there are no specific rules that state whether a player can or cannot participate. But that doesn’t mean players shouldn’t — and making sure players feel supported to kneel is Northwestern’s responsibility.

NU’s mission page states that “Northwestern is committed to excellent teaching, innovative research and the personal and intellectual growth of its students in a diverse academic community.” If NU really stands by this statement, then the University should actively encourage interested student-athletes to partake in national anthem protests.

College is a place where young adults have the chance to think independently and take responsibility for their actions. NU students take classes that challenge their beliefs and present new perspectives on the world. Outside the classroom, we are encouraged to take these new, important lessons and apply them to our everyday lives.

Because student-athletes have limited time to participate in clubs to express these feelings, sporting events may be their only platform. So if athletes feels strongly about social justice, they shouldn’t be worried about any backlash from the University.

I do understand that NU is not a public university and faces greater pressure from donors and alumni it relies on. So if someone disagrees with the protests, the University would have a tough decision to make.

But ultimately it comes down to what NU values. While we may not be the best football school, we do send some students to the NFL. Northwestern is potential professional football players’ first experience in “the real world,” so while they’re here, they should be encouraged to speak their mind. If the University does what is morally right by backing players’ desire to protest, the decision will pay off for NU in the long run.

The University will emerge as a leader in this national conversation and, even more importantly, foster individuals who are confident in their beliefs and ability to “kneel” for what they believe in.

Andrew Golden is is a Medill freshman. He can be contacted at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this column, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.