I admit, a year ago, I didn’t imagine that I’d be writing today about football players standing or declining to stand for the playing of the national anthem.
It’s been a rough fall in that regard. The NFL’s TV ratings are plummeting, as disgusted fans head for the exits in reaction to player “protests” against the national anthem. It would be too much to say copycat theatrics are sweeping the nation among college and high school teams, but they are cropping up here and there.
One place they cropped up was Millikin University, in Decatur, Illinois. Millikin plays football in Division III’s College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin,* and in September, the team got its loyal fans hot under the collar when several of the players decided to take a knee for the national anthem. (H/t: Todd Starnes)
Afterward, Millikin decided to have the team stay in the locker room until after the national anthem had been played. That’s what the team did on Saturday, 15 October, when it played Augustana at Millikin’s home field in Decatur. The idea appears to have been that the team could maintain a semblance of unity, and avoid offending the fans — family, fellow students, alumni, loyal community supporters of the school. Fellow Americans.
The fans were offended anyway. Most seem to have felt as Jewell Young does:
“I’m very supportive of Millikin sport programs, I’m very supportive of the college as a whole, I’ve lived here my whole life, however in this instance, I believe they have dropped the ball.” said Jewell Young, a Decatur resident. “If some don’t agree with the National Anthem, then they should stay in the locker room and come out when it begins. I don’t think the whole team should have to stay in because I don’t think the whole team feels that way.”
Which makes sense to me. Let those who just can’t bear to stand, stay in the locker room to remain seated. Post selfies, if they must. Definitely commemorate what they’re doing, because they’ll live to regret it. They’ll have a lot to teach others one day.
The school explained its plan:
[T]he school and the football [program] described why they made their decision, “Rather than have our message be misunderstood or misconstrued, we are united in our decision to stay in the locker room until kickoff during which time we will engage in a moment of reflection to personally recognize the sacrifice of so many and renew our commitment to living up to those most important words: with liberty and justice for all.”
But not all the players are on board, it seems. The entire team didn’t stay in the locker room on Saturday, 15 October. One player, offensive tackle Connor Brewer, #75, went out to be on the sideline and stand there for the national anthem.
While his teammates had their moments of reflection in the locker room, and the team from Augustana stood respectfully across the field from him in a long, imposing line, Connor Brewer stood alone for Millikin, actually respecting his anthem, his flag, the sacrifices of his forebears, and his nation.
He has declined to be interviewed by the media, out of respect for his teammates and coaches.
* Our Football Follies regulars may recall that Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology beat Millikin in week 2. Not that we’re gloating or anything.