On Aug. 26, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sent a shockwave through the sports atmosphere when he sat during the national anthem in protest of recent violent events involving black Americans and police. Since then, Kaepernick has gained support, and criticism, from celebrities on sports and non-sports platforms.
But Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, the rest of the coaching staff and the players had a discussion about protesting police violence against African Americans before the season.
“We have addressed it, some of the issues going across this country in the summer with the players,” coach Urban Meyer said on Monday. “And a couple of our coaches spoke.”
Meyer also said that no players have come up to him asking to sit or raise their fists in protest.
The trend is increasing in popularity throughout the NFL and spreading into college. Former Buckeye Malcolm Jenkins raised his fist during the national anthem during Week 2 of NFL season, and recently three Michigan State players and several Michigan players, including All-American cornerback Jourdan Lewis, raised their fists during the national anthem this past week.
Both Spartans coach Mark Dantonio and Wolverines coach Jim Harbaugh supported their respective players.
Redshirt junior quarterback J.T. Barrett said that the topic came up during a team meeting one day. Barrett said that it was a very productive conversation, with every player taking a nuanced thought away from the experience. However, there was a general consensus from the players. They are trying to control what they can control, but understand that the issue of police violence against African Americans is a serious one.
“The main thing was saying that these things happening are all real. They’re not something that you can turn your head and look the other way so with that we opened up for conversation,” Barrett said. “I think the main concept behind it is shedding light on an issue that is happening in our home of the United States and that’s a real issue and that’s all he’s trying to do is shed light on it and let people realize that this is what’s happening and that we can change it so it takes everybody too. I think that’s the main thing he’s trying to get it. I wouldn’t do it, per say. But if a teammate did, I wouldn’t have any problem with it at all.”
The support from the coaches of athletes who have made a non-violent protest have mostly been positive, but players have experienced backlash. Nebraska’s senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey said he has received racially-charged, negative comments after his protest along with two other Nebraska players.
Redshirt junior Tyquan Lewis said the Buckeyes were educated on freedom of speech during Patriot Week back in May. Lewis said that he doesn’t believe the protests affect them at OSU, but he believes it’s a great cause.
“We certainly respect (the players) rights as a citizen in this great country,” Meyer said. “But that has not come up to me, and if it does, we’ll have a chat about it.”
The No. 2 Buckeyes play Rutgers on Saturday at noon at Ohio Stadium.