Silently protesting racial inequality during the national anthem started in the National Football league, then moved to Major League Baseball.
Will patrons at Michigan’s biggest college rivalry games – University of Michigan versus Michigan State University – do the same on Saturday?
Dana Greene, a UM Graduate student, is working to make it happen. He is lobbying students, faculty and others to either sit or kneel during the national anthem before the first night game is played between the Wolverines and Spartans at the Big House.
“It’s important that the campus as a whole acknowledges the injustices that happen on our campus, and across the country,” said Greene, 23.
Greene, a Detroit Native, knelt for 21 hours in the middle of UM’s Diag two weeks ago as a way of showing solidarity with Colin Kaepernick -- the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who sat and knelt instead of standing during the Star Spangled Banner to protest police brutality and the oppression of blacks in America.
People started to notice Kaepernick’s move, which started in 2016, and many NFL players joined last month, including several Detroit Lions who knelt or locked arms during the national anthem. Bruce Maxwell, catcher for the Oakland Athletics became the first baseball player to take a knee last month before a game.
The protests have generated backlash and have included President Donald Trump, who said it was disrespectful to the American flag and players should be fired it they do it, among other things.
At UM, Greene’s act of kneeling for 21 hours generated widespread attention, and resulted in a meeting with UM President Mark Schlissel, where they discussed the racist incidents that continue to happen on UM’s campus, and other campuses.
The day after Greene protested in the diag, he said someone urinated on the spot where he knelt.
Then, earlier this week, racist fliers were spread around campus including one that said, “Make America White Again.”
At the beginning of the school year, someone painted over UM’s iconic rock off campus with epithets directed at Latino students.
These are just a few of the incidents that are happening all the time, Greene said.
“It makes me feel like I am not welcome or wanted and people want to bring harm to me,” said Greene. “Right now, there is a sense that a lot of students don’t feel supported and the institution doesn’t have their backs. I am hoping collectively (at the game) we can say, ‘We believe in more and we can do better.’”
Greene sent out campus emails to students to encourage them to silently protest during the national anthem before the UM/MSU game, and friends created Facebook pages to invite students from both campuses to participate.
But some are opposed to protesting at the UM/MSU game, including student Robert Burgess.
In an email to students published in the UM student newspaper, The Michigan Daily, Burgess said sitting during the national anthem would be disrespectful.
“By sitting during the national anthem, that only gives reason to question the authenticity of the university as a whole,” Burgess wrote. “YOU represent the university. YOU are gifted people being here, you should not be influenced by a fad the NFL brought to light.”
Greene isn’t planning to go to the UM/MSU Game because he can’t afford it. Instead, he will be passing out flyers outside to encourage people to sit or kneel during the national anthem.
“We have to say, ‘We expect more from our campus, and the way we’ve been treated,’” Greene said.