We, the 14 members of the Saint Michael’s College men’s basketball team, want to take this opportunity to continue the discussion we hope we started on Saturday, Nov. 4, when we took a knee before our game at the University of Vermont’s Patrick Gymnasium.

We took a knee to draw attention to the daily injustices that African Americans face due to the color of our skin. Among our areas of concern are encounters with police and other citizens, failures of the educational system, negative imaging in mass media, and lack of employment opportunities. We want to make it clear that the kneeling has nothing to do with the flag or the military. We are proud citizens of the United States and we love our country. We are also extremely appreciative of the sacrifices made by the women and men of our Armed Services.

We are American citizens with a desire to improve our country. We want to ensure that we are included when we speak of “Liberty & Justice for All!” We understand that some people disagree with our method of protest, and we welcome conversation to work towards a solution. We are saddened by the hateful remarks directed at us, such as “go back to Africa” and other hostile comments during and since our peaceful protest. We are all American citizens doing what we can to live the American Dream.

We believe as Americans we should all recognize the fact that our country is a melting pot of all races, colors and creeds, and that we all belong here. We are One American Family. Any negative issues that arise within a family are addressed with the intent of healing. Many African Americans feel the effects of racism every day, and this protest brings this issue to the forefront where it belongs so we as a country can address it.

We chose this form of protest because it is a national form of protest which is creating significant conversation regarding our issues. We recognize as an NCAA Division II program our platform is significantly smaller than a Division I program’s, but it was our opportunity to seize the moment and contribute to the discussion. Taking a knee during the anthem when the rest of America stands means that we cannot fully pay homage to a system that systematically disenfranchises us. We silently take a knee so we don’t interfere with others while they stand. Turning our backs would be totally disrespectful. We don’t do that, we take a knee.

The act of kneeling is used across many platforms, such as in sports and at places of worship. In sports, when a person is injured, players kneel to recognize someone’s misfortune and bring awareness to it. In church, for example, individuals kneel as a sign of humility before God and Jesus Christ. Kneeling is both a powerful and respectful action used to lift every voice without saying two words.

Taking a knee is not only symbolic of peaceful protest but represents paying respect and honor to those who have made sacrifices for the betterment of our lives. So by this act of kneeling, we recognize both citizens and soldiers who have attempted to fight for equality.

A lot of people might think our platform is too small, but that’s not the point. We would have kneeled if there were 20 people in the stands or 2,000. Our goal was to bring awareness to the situation like other athletes have been doing with their respective platforms. We know some people don’t agree with the decision we made, but there are people who fully supported our decision and we appreciate their support. Our intentions weren’t to disrespect the flag or the military in any way. We decided to kneel because it is a form of silent protest, and it brings awareness to the injustices faced by African American people. We are all proud Americans who want to see change brought to certain situations, and we hope that protesting like we did helps bring about that change.

 

– Guest post from the Saint Michael’s men’s basketball team