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Nebraska regent wants players who knelt for anthem off team

A member of Nebraska’s board of regents vehemently disagrees with some players’ decisions to kneel for the national anthem.

Three players kneeled in protest of systemic discrimination of African-Americans before Saturday’s game against Northwestern. Regent Hal Daub told the Lincoln Journal-Star that the players’ actions should get them kicked off the team.

“It’s a free country,” Daub told the Journal Star on Tuesday. “They don’t have to play football for the university either.

“They know better, and they had better be kicked off the team,” he added. “They won’t take the risk to exhibit their free speech in a way that places their circumstance in jeopardy, so let them get out of uniform and do their protesting on somebody else’s nickel.”

Daub continued: “Those publicity seeking athletes ought to rethink the forum in which they chose to issue their personal views at the expense of everyone else.”

Three Nebraska players kneel during the national anthem vs. Northwestern (AP).
Three Nebraska players kneel during the national anthem vs. Northwestern (AP).

Mohamed Barry, DaiShon Neal and Michael Rose-Ivey were the players who took a knee similar to the actions of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began the practice in the preseason. Three Michigan State players raised their fists in protest during the national anthem earlier Saturday.

Rose-Ivey said Monday that the players understood there would be ramifications from their actions — Kaepernick has faced severe backlash for his decision despite his eloquent attempts to explain it — but that he and his two teammates didn’t expect the reaction of hateful comments that they’ve received since the game.

Other regents quoted by the Journal-Star shared Daub’s sentiments and disagreed with the players’ actions. Daub, a Republican, is a former mayor of Omaha and was a member of the U.S. House of representatives from 1981-1989. Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts also weighed in.

“Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest,” Ricketts said on his radio show via the AP. “I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”

The Journal-Star noted that Ricketts said he respects the players’ right to make the protest, even if he disagrees with it. Meanwhile, Daub also had this to say when he was asked if sanctions on the Nebraska players would abridge their First Amendment rights.

“Anything you do with respect to the First Amendment, you run a risk,” Daub said. “Right or wrong, you can hide behind the First Amendment all day long.”

His remarks run counter to a policy of the Board of Regents, found on the Nebraska website.

Members of the academic community, including the guests of the University, have the right to extensive latitude in making their opinions known. It is understood, however, that in exercising this right the rights of others must not be jeopardized. The public exploration and resolution of differing views can be successful only when groups and individuals discuss the issues in forums where the right to disagree, speak freely, and be heard is preserved. Within this context, the University community recognizes peaceful demonstrations as a legitimate means of expressing one’s opinion.

The preservation of freedom of speech, and the recognition of the right to peaceful demonstration as part of that freedom, is possible only in an orderly environment in which individuals are not endangered by force or violence and in which they are free from coercion and interference in the exercise of their rights or in carrying out their legitimate activities. Consequently, in the specific case of campus demonstrations, the University community may impose behavioral restrictions which are necessary to preserve the orderly functioning of the University and the right of all to be heard.

The two restrictions are to prevent violence and also the interference with university operations — the personal offense of a regent is not listed. Given that the protest the three players engaged in was peaceful, it certainly doesn’t fit in the violent category. And it’s an insane stretch to see how three kneeling players before a football game would interfere with university operations.

Daub’s criticism is similar to the actions of a Missouri lawmaker following the protests at Mizzou in 2015. When players boycotted team activities because of student and racial issues at the university, a member of the Missouri House pre-filed a bill that would revoke the scholarships of protesting players. The bill was withdrawn not long after it was pre-filed on the grounds that the state couldn’t dictate the way an athletic department uses its funds.

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