A member of the Nebraska board of regents has called for three players who protested racial injustice by kneeling during the national anthem to “be kicked off the team,” airing his comments days after one player said he had received threats over his protest.
Mohamed Barry, DaiShon Neal and Michael Rose-Ivey took a knee before the Cornhuskers’ game Saturday against Northwestern in Evanston, Ill., registering their protest over racial discrimination and drawing the attention of Hal Daub, a regent who formerly was the mayor of Omaha and a member of the House of Representatives in the 1980s.
“It’s a free country,” Daub told the Lincoln Journal Star on Tuesday. “They don’t have to play football for the university either. They know better, and they had better be kicked off the team,” he added. “They won’t take the risk to exhibit their free speech in a way that places their circumstance in jeopardy, so let them get out of uniform and do their protesting on somebody else’s nickel.
“Those publicity-seeking athletes ought to rethink the forum in which they chose to issue their personal views at the expense of everyone else.”
Daub later denied saying that the three should be kicked off the team. On his radio show, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts supported the players’ right to protest, if not the substance of the protest. “Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said (via the Associated Press).“I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”
The players have one high-ranking supporter in Nebraska President Hank Bounds, who told the Journal Star he “completely opposes” kicking the players off the team or changing university policy to limit players’ ability to express their opinions.
And the regents’ own policies, spelled out on the school’s website, support the players. “Members of the academic community, including the guests of the University, have the right to extensive latitude in making their opinions known. It is understood, however, that in exercising this right the rights of others must not be jeopardized. The public exploration and resolution of differing views can be successful only when groups and individuals discuss the issues in forums where the right to disagree, speak freely, and be heard is preserved. Within this context, the University community recognizes peaceful demonstrations as a legitimate means of expressing one’s opinion.”
The only restrictions allowed are to prevent violence and interference with university operations.
Nebraska's Michael Rose-Ivey with a powerful statement in today's press conference. Says fans told him he should "be hung before the anthem" pic.twitter.com/NJjEMnUYhd
— Jordan Heck (@JordanHeckFF) September 26, 2016
On Monday, the players described sobering reactions to their protest, including some suggestions that involve lynching. Most have come from social media, Rose-Ivey said, as well as from Nebraska fans and their peers.
“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. “Others believe we should be hung before the anthem before the next game.
“These are actual statements we receive from fans.”
At Nebraska’s home games, players usually remain in the locker room during the playing of the national anthem. But Northwestern’s pregame is different, so the Cornhuskers decided to express themselves, after clearing their actions with Coach Mike Riley.
“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.
He further spelled out his thoughts on Twitter:
Barry, a redshirt freshman, said the responses he’d received were more positive than negative.
“What’s another time when people would actually talk about it?” Barry said (via Omaha.com). “If we did it during practice, no one would talk about it. If it was any other particular moment — but the national anthem, that glorifies America and all that, that’s a perfect time.”