Once Colin Kaepernick took a knee for the national anthem, I knew it’d make its way to college athletics.
After Kaepernick’s protest, the idea spread throughout the NFL and made its way to NCAA football, but not at IU. Memorial Stadium plays the national anthem before the Hoosiers take the field, leaving no chance for public protest.
Before the Ohio State game, however, IU was able to stand for the anthem.
Junior cornerback Rashard Fant stood with his fist up.
Just last week at a Bloomington Faculty Council meeting, Carolyn Calloway-Thomas, a professor in the Department of African American and African Diaspora Studies, asked IU Athletics Director Fred Glass if the department had addressed the Black Lives Matter movement and related protests.
“There will be no punishment for someone doing those things,” Glass said. “We won’t deny people the right to do those things.”
He said IU is committed to free expression of ideas and “standing for the national anthem is not a rule.” These protests do have to remain within legal boundaries, though.
Fant said he did it because it’s something he believed in and wanted to stand up for.
“Not big or anything, but something we wanted to bring more awareness and keep the conversation going,” he said.
His specific explanation referenced equality.
“We’re all equal,” he said. “Diversity’s great, we need it. At the end of the day, everybody’s equal. We’re one, we have to be one. We’re a unit. We’re a team.”
IU Coach Kevin Wilson was behind him, too, and said he’s one of the team’s more mature and intellectual guys.
“I think the way he goes about it, and the way he did it, that’s his choice, and I respect he did it in a class way and came out and played a football game,” Wilson said Monday.
Back to Kaepernick. Between Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s calling his actions “dumb and disrespectful” and numerous military veterans supporting him, I kind of wavered with how I felt about Kaepernick’s action.
But when I heard about Fant’s actions, I had no reservations in supporting him.
The First Amendment, despite what some people may think, applies to everyone — white, black, student, real-world adult, Christian, Muslim.
So for someone to try to dictate what one person is able to say over another in a situation where nobody is getting hurt is just absurd.
As you all learned in your high school government class, students and teachers do not shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate.
For those of you who weren’t paying attention in class, Mary Beth Tinker and friends wore black armbands to school in protest of the Vietnam War. The school got mad, they went to court, and the Supreme Court ruled in Tinker’s favor.
Tinker was protesting a war. Kaepernick is protesting for equality. Both were fighting what they thought to be injustices.
So, though Fant is an IU student, the University cannot and rightfully is not arguing that he can’t express himself in such a manner.
Even if athletes are held to a higher standard, Fant exceeds that expectation. It only took him three years to earn his degree from the School of Public and Environmental Affairs, and he says he’s going to keep going.
“If I can find a way to have an impact, to touch people’s lives, I am going to do it,” Fant told iuhoosiers.com. “That is my passion.”
Fant’s doing this might be able to touch people. As someone who is not directly affected by racial inequality, I can’t talk. But if I were, seeing Fant making it clear everyone is equal and fighting for equality would make me pretty damn happy.
Glass is fine with it, and so is Wilson, so Rashard Fant keep doing you.