Editors note at 1:25 p.m. on Sept. 25: This post has been updated throughout.
Several dozen SMU students demonstrated in solidarity at the SMU vs. TCU football game Friday when students near the scoreboard and members of the band on the field knelt down during the national anthem.
— Rattle & Hum Sports (@CowboyCamp) September 24, 2016
This was organized after a conversation was sparked about the recent fatalities of unarmed black men at the hands of police, with the first demonstration by San Francisco’s 49ers quarterback, Colin Kaepernick. Kaepernick took a knee during the national anthem at the third preseason game in early August and recently at a game Sept.2. USA today reported his intention to draw attention to the recent fatalities due to police brutality. Kaepernick vowed to continue kneeling during the national anthem until he is satisfied with changes made toward ending racial oppression in the country, according to ESPN.com.
Most – if not all – students in the protest were students of color. Hispanic American Student Senator Jose Santoyo noted this is not a demonstration against police.
“This week, it just so happens that it is the same week SMU is going to be honoring the Dallas Police Department,” Santoyo said in an interview earlier in the week. “Which is not why we coordinated this at all.”
Dallas Police Chief David Brown was honored before the game began, who will retire three weeks earlier than expected.
— Katy Blakey (@KatyBlakeyNBC5) September 24, 2016
Santoyo explained that this demonstration’s purpose was to raise awareness on how recent events have affected many people.
“We hope that SMU Mustangs can understand that there are issues affecting different communities on campus. It is our duty to help and assist in any way,” Santoyo said.
Darien Flowers, president of the Alpha Phi Alpha Inc. chapter at SMU, also participated in the effort, which he said intended to raise awareness.
“We want to tell people about the injustices that are happening and we hope that our actions will promote some type of dialogue between both sides,” Flowers said days before the demonstration. “Between the individuals that don’t necessarily know what is going on and between the individuals that are pretty knowledgeable about the situation.”
Flowers commented on the need to bring an end to this issue.
“The mistreatment of people of color is a long standing problem in our country, dating back centuries,” Flowers said. “Right now we just have a movement to really put an end to that and try to help out however we can.”
Second-year Naomi Samuel, African American Student Senator, also viewed this as an issue that cannot be dismissed.
“Organizers felt that it was important that we show that it is not going to be swept under the rug as a campus and take a stance on this issue,” Samuel said days before.
Samuel further emphasized the meaning behind the demonstration shown at the football game.
“So often people associate sitting down during the national anthem with disrespect to police,” Samuel said. “We want to show that this is not only respecting the black lives that have been wrongly lost, but also the officers who’ve died protecting the peoples right to protest peacefully.”
Ultimately, Samuel seeks understanding from the SMU community.
“I hope to leave an impression where people double check and ask themselves well, what are these people really trying to say,” Samuel said. “And put themselves in our shoes as minorities.”
The protest drew mixed reactions on Twitter when freelance journalist David Ubben retweeted a photo of the band protesters.
— (((Port Dauphin))) (@portdauphin) September 24, 2016
@davidubben I wouldn’t call that news
— Jeff Waterman (@JeffWaterman1) September 24, 2016
— Maxwellpowerdown (@maxwelpowerup) September 24, 2016
The wave of demonstrations started by Kaepernick have spread throughout Dallas. In addition to SMU, DeSoto high school volleyball players kneeled before the anthem Sept. 20 followed by DeSoto and Cedar Hill high school cheerleaders Sept 23.
SMU released a statement Sept. 25 regarding the silent protest:
“The strength of a great university is reflected in its commitment to the broad exchange of ideas and philosophies. SMU respects the diversity of opinions within the University and supports the right of free expression for each member of its campus community.”
For a video of the protest watch below.