Taking a knee

Why some Westmont athletes have chosen to take a knee for the national anthem

Annika Bahnsen, Staff Writer

In 2020, the United States faced challenges on many levels. Besides the ongoing pandemic, issues of racial inequality and police brutality resurfaced. While this historically is a deep-rooted and systemic problem in the United States, the premature death of George Floyd by a police officer in particular sparked a call for justice. As people protested in the streets and demanded change in many of our government’s systems, people advocated in various ways. Many members of some sports teams decided to kneel during the national anthem — a rather noticeable and controversial gesture. 

This was exemplified in 2016 when NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the national anthem at one of the last games of the season. This sparked outrage among viewers across the country, a lot of whom disagreed with his decision. Five years later, many athletes have joined the movement, especially after the events that took place in June.

Here at Westmont, although it is not a very popular action, a few athletes have been kneeling during the national anthem before each of their games. One of the teams who has been participating in this act is the women’s basketball team. They have felt unified in their decision to kneel and are big supporters of this movement. Coach Kirsten Moore, who does not pressure any of her athletes to kneel, commented on why some of her players have chosen to participate. 

Coach Moore said, “Although the national anthem debate has become complex and layered, for me it is simply a way to tangibly show love to my Black players, the Black students on this campus, and the Black community across this country.” 

She discussed from where her team’s desire to kneel stemmed within the context of a predominantly white college. 

“Our women’s basketball team is incredibly diverse in our backgrounds … Although sometimes our differences make conversations like this more challenging, I truly believe the fact that our team loves and respects each other makes it a unique opportunity to have an honest conversation and really build empathy and understanding for different points of view.” 

Third-year women’s basketball captain Kaitlin Larson added to the conversation by giving her opinions on the matter: “Kneeling for the anthem does not solve these long-standing issues we are facing, but it is a way for me to show support to not only my teammates, or my [Black] brother, but to everyone who faces these issues on a daily basis.”

A few athletes on the women’s volleyball team kneel for the national anthem as well. Third-year Kaylee Ivie mentioned her inspiration for kneeling.

“[Kneeling] comes from a desire to honor the lives of the historically marginalized, exploited, oppressed and unheard. It’s a moment to reflect on the legacy of colonization, slavery and white supremacy, which has devastated the balance of power not only in the U.S. but globally.” She continued, “It’s a space to pay homage to the individuals, known and unknown, who faithfully worked to oppose the very systems constructed against them, even at the cost of their own lives and freedom.”

Athletes feel this responsibility to be outspoken about injustices, seemingly big or small, on every level. For instance, the NBA almost canceled its season over the summer because the association wanted to acknowledge the severity of the issues taking place. The organization argued that the issue was bigger than basketball. Similarly, Maddy Morrison, a fourth-year captain on the women’s volleyball team, reflected on the platform she has been given as an athlete.  

“In the volleyball community, kneeling isn’t something you see very much, so I’m proud of the few teammates that take a knee with me as well. I’m glad I have them and that they see the importance of their voice. I realize that being an athlete is a huge privilege and I’m blessed to be able to bring awareness to such an important issue.” 

These athletes at Westmont, and many athletes around the world, have taken part in this movement, hoping to help others recognize the injustice in our world, simply by taking a knee. 

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