San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sparked a national debate when he chose to remain seated for the national anthem during the NFL preseason in protest of the racial and social discrimination in America and to bring attention and conversation to the systemic racism in this country.
Since then, a number of professional athletes have joined Kaepernick’s protest to show solidarity and unity for his cause.
While the protest has made its way through the professional sports world, however, it has yet to become a major storyline in college sports. But what would happen if a player decided to protest the anthem?
Clemson Tigers head coach Dabo Swinney was asked about that possibility during his press conference this week.
While Swinney openly admitted he would prefer the players do any form of protesting in their own time rather than using the team’s platform, he said that he would not punish players if they decide to join Kaepernick’s cause.
Swinney just doesn’t want his players to cause a distraction for the team.
Here are some of Swinney’s comments, as transcribed by Yahoo! Sports:
“I don’t think it’s good to be a distraction to your team. I don’t think it’s good to use the team as the platform. I totally disagree with that. Nobody’s really asked me about Kaepernick or whatever. I totally disagree with that. Not his protest, but I just think there’s a right way to do things and I don’t think two wrongs make a right. Never have, never will. And I think that it just creates more divisiveness, more division.
“The only thing I’m going to discipline my player for is things within this team and the team rules and those type of things, holding everyone accountable to the team standard. If guys want to go be a part of things I just think they should do it on their own time and outside of the team framework.
“You look at — I think one of the greatest leaders this world has ever seen is Martin Luther King,. I don’t know if there’s ever been a better man or better leader. And to me, he changed the world through love in the face of hate. He changed the world through peace in the face of violence. He changed the world through education in the face of ignorance. And he changed the world through Jesus. And boy, that’s politically incorrect. That’s what he did. And it’s amazing that when you don’t learn from the past you can repeat your mistakes.”
If Swinney was willing to explain his position in depth to the media, you would have to believe he has already had a conversation with his players. And since we have gone two weeks without any members of the Clemson program protesting the anthem, perhaps they are listening to Swinney’s words.
But we’d also like Swinney to listen to what he is saying.
Re-read what Swinney had to say about the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. Then ask yourself: Isn’t Colin Kaepernick attempting to make a positive change in the world through peace in the face of violence? Isn’t he trying to educate the public on the systemic racism and social injustice in the face of ignorance? An honest answer to both of those questions would be “yes.”