Players hope to create unity in time of disagreement
What started as one man protesting racial inequality led to nationwide attention, and some Franklin College football players are participating in the protest.
Mike Leonard, the football team’s head coach, said the team decided lock arms and stand facing the flag before their game against Manchester University on Sept. 30.
This decision came after former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick started sitting and eventually kneeling for the national anthem to protest racial injustice, particularly regarding police brutality. President Donald Trump recently tweeted that NFL players who protest the national anthem should be fired, sparking players across the country to join the movement.
A few days prior to the Sept. 30 game, players approached Leonard and asked what the team could do to bring unity during this time of disagreement.
The entire coaching staff and team met in Richardson Chapel to discuss the situation. They decided to stand during the anthem, but still protest.
“I was extremely proud of the way they responded,” Leonard said. “Everyone I saw in the community that I talked to after the game were so impressed and said that there should be other teams that take the example of what Franklin did today. It was powerful.”
Deontez Alexander, a junior wide receiver, said he wanted to lock arms to highlight the injustices because of some of his experiences with fans and people from other schools.
“We decided to show the people of Franklin that we can make a stand and still respect our country,” Alexander said. “We didn’t want to kneel because people might take it the wrong way. They don’t see it as standing up to racial injustice; they see it as disrespecting our country and disrespecting our military and flag when it is not about that at all.”
While the team only locked arms, a few players wanted to kneel. One of these players, junior defensive back David Masayile, had personal reasons for his response.
One of his family members was recently affected by racism. He said his family member’s experience was a wakeup call that he needed to stand up for them.
“We are protesting for racial injustice, but it’s also that the mentality of racism starts at a young age, and a lot of people don’t understand that unless they go through it,” Masayile said. “If you get one or two people talking about it, that’s one or two more people who are getting the conversation started.”