On Saturday, Nebraska senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, along with freshmen Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal, took a knee during the national anthem before a football game against Northwestern. Rose-Ivey said Monday that some of the reactions he and his teammates received, including suggestions that they be “lynched,” show why their protest was necessary.
“Some believe DaiShon, Mohamed and myself should be kicked off the team or suspended, while some said we deserved to be lynched or shot just like the other black people who have died recently,” Rose-Ivey told reporters during the Cornhuskers’ weekly media availability (via the Associated Press). “Others believe we should be hung before the anthem before the next game.
“These are actual statements we receive from fans,” he added. Rose-Ivey noted that the reactions to the protest came mostly from social media, and some were posted by Nebraska fans, as well as by high school classmates and other peers.
Also taking issue with the players’ actions was Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts. “Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said Monday during his weekly radio call-in show (via the Omaha World Herald). “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”
According to the World-Herald, Ricketts was responding to a caller who said Nebraska officials should put the three players on a ship and “dump them in the ocean.” The governor later said, “We’d never want to tolerate” threats of violence toward the players.
The Cornhuskers players were emulating the example set by 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been sitting or kneeling during pregame renditions of “The Star-Spangled Banner” as a means of expressing his concern over incidents of racial injustice in the United States, including the killings of black men by police officers. Several other football players, including at the high school level, as well as athletes in other sports, have also begun protesting during the anthem.
“We felt it was our duty to step up and join the chorus of athletes in the NFL, WNBA, college and high school using their platforms to highlight these issues,” Rose-Ivey said Monday.
At Nebraska home games, players usually stay in the locker room during the anthem, while at Northwestern, they are already out on the field, so the Cornhuskers players decided to take advantage of the opportunity. Rose-Ivey said they ran their idea past Coach Mike Riley and he was supportive.
While the three Nebraska players were kneeling, four of their teammates moved to help the Northwestern band hold up a large American flag, part of which was drooping toward the field. One of those players, sophomore Zack Darlington, said Monday, “I know how sacred our flag is, so I wasn’t going to let it touch the ground — not on my watch.”
Darlington added that while he didn’t agree with the trio’s method of protest, he understood the motivations behind it. “Everyone can see there are a lot of African American people being killed today, which makes people nervous,” he said. “There are other ways possibly to protest that wouldn’t disrespect our veterans and military and our country. I don’t think they did it in spite of the military or of our veterans. I know they love this country. It’s something they want to bring attention to, and I think rightly so.”