Despite the president of the United States’ displeasure with national anthem protests, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee has stood firm in its belief in protecting students’ right to protest. While the university has no official policy on standing for the anthem, it has issued a statement, saying that UWM would not penalize student athletes should they protest the anthem.
“We support our student-athletes right to peacefully express them in a non-violent and respectful way. If any of our student-athletes were to make the educated and thoughtful choice to participate in such protests there would be no repercussions to those athletes,” said Catherine Rossi, the deputy athletic director at UWM. There have no been any such controveries yet, though, at UWM sporting events.
The head Men’s Basketball Coach at UWM, Patrick Baldwin, declined to comment on the protests. He said that he is focusing completely on getting his team ready for his first season as head coach.
Although there have been no reported incidents at UWM, there have been incidents with other college athletes kneeling during the national anthem. A group of cheerleaders at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale, Illinois received death threats after kneeling during the anthem. The administration there has strongly supported the cheerleaders’ right to protest and is investigating the response.
Carolina Matamoros, a sophomore on the Women’s Swim Team at UWM who is attending the University on an athletic scholarship, said she doesn’t know if she would kneel but is happy that the administration is supporting athletes who choose to kneel.
“It would definitely scare me, but I would stick to it if it’s something I believe in strongly,” said Matamoros when asked if the threats made to the cheerleaders at SIU would influence her decision if she chose to kneel.
UWM’s Baldwin is following suit with most other major college athletic coaches. When Nick Sabin, the head coach of the University of Alabama football team, was asked about the protest, he didn’t take a side. He did elaborate that it was disappointing to see something that was once unifying to become a point of controversy.
So far at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee there has not really been an issue with any national anthem protest but that doesn’t mean that athletes and coaches don’t have their opinions on the matter. While Baldwin didn’t comment, Matamoros did take a stance on the subject.
“I don’t think that it is disrespectful. We have the right to stand or kneel, if we want, and people are doing it respectfully. It would be different if people were acting violently, but this protest has been conducted very peacefully,” said Matamoros.
Colin Kaepernick took a knee to protest the oppression of African-Americans during the national anthem of an NFL football game last year and since then his movement has gained traction from other athletes, but it has not come without controversy.
The protests have branched out through all sports across the country and at all levels including the collegiate level. The protest sparked mass debate on social media. The president of The United States even got involved when he recommended that owners fire the players that kneel during the anthem.
“Get that son of a b*tch off the field right now, he’s fired. He’s fired!” said President Donald Trump at a campaign rally for Alabama Senate Candidate Luther Strange when recommending how NFL owners should deal with players who kneel.
Trump has also taken to Twitter to show his outrage about the protests tweeting that the NFL should force the players to stand.
Since Trump has spoken out about this topic, more and more college athletes have taken a knee in protest; many of the athletes attend public universities that receive money from the federal government. Along with student tuition, aid from the federal government accounts for 28 percent of UWM’s funds.
The Green Bay Packers, who play just 115 miles north of UWM, have been one of the more outspoken NFL Franchises on the matter of the protests. Before their nationally televised game in late September, Aaron Rodgers, the Super Bowl winning quarterback, asked fans to join them in linking arm instead of kneeling to show solidarity.
The Milwaukee Panthers kick off their Men’s and Women’s Basketball Season on November 2nd against Wisconsin Lutheran and November 21st against Loyola University-Chicago.