Taking a knee at SF State

It’s more than just the national anthem. It’s greater than lining up in single fashion, putting your right hand over your heart and standing in respect for the American flag.

Two San Francisco State soccer players kneeled during the national anthem prior to their match against Sonoma State on Saturday. Taking a knee is a way of standing up for the oppression that African Americans have been experiencing.

Following the protest started by Colin Kaepernick a year ago against police brutality, SF State soccer players Sam Gebremiche and Nigus Solomon decided to kneel during the national anthem.  

“Honestly [I’ve] been wanting to do it, but was scared what coach might think,” said Solomon in a text message.

According to Solomon, his belief in his stance overcame his fear.

“I realized I am doing it for the rights of people and it makes sense to stand up for what I believe in,” said Solomon, who is from Ethiopia.

San Francisco State University has a storied history of social justice, [and] we support our student athletes in their pursuit of that,” said Brandon Davis, associate athletic director of communications at SF State.

Solomon’s pursuit for social justice ignited when he was 15 after learning about Oscar Grant being shot and killed by a BART police officer at Fruitvale station.

“That had a huge effect on me,” said Solomon. “That was the same BART route that I took at the time and was thinking that could’ve easily been me.”

Although Kaepernick’s protest began in 2016, the number of athletes deciding to not stand during the anthem increased after President Donald Trump took to Twitter and stated:

“If a player wants the privilege of making millions of dollars in the NFL, or other leagues, he or she should not be allowed to disrespect our Great American Flag (or Country) and should stand for the National Anthem. If not, YOU’RE FIRED. Find something else to do!”

In response to Trump, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell wrote in a statement: “Divisive comments like these demonstrate an unfortunate lack of respect for the NFL…and a failure to understand the overwhelming force for good our clubs and players represent in our communities.”

Trump’s statement sparked athletes outside of football to join Kaepernick’s protest, from the MLB to college sports teams.

Through the controversy, the initial message of Kaepernick’s protest may have been lost according to SF State political science professor, Robert Smith.

“Initially, the kneeling did call attention to Black Lives Matter issue but over time the focus has shifted from the issue of the police to the protesters,” said Smith.

Despite the shift in focus the act of kneeling still sends a message according to Smith.

“I think student athlete participation is good way to show solidarity with their professional counterparts and with Black Lives Matter. This is largely symbolism but symbolism matters,” said Smith.

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