REECER’S PIECE: Stansbury comments should be reassessed

John Reecer is the sports editor of the College Heights Herald during the spring 2016 semester.

John Reecer

How do we properly measure what it means to be respectfully patriotic?

Recently, the WKU men’s basketball head coach, Rick Stansbury, gave his answer to this divisive question.

Monday, he was interviewed on a sports radio talk show and was asked about where he stands on the national anthem protest issue which has reached national prominence.

Stansbury said in response, “The way our team will do it, we’ll put our hands over our hearts like we’ve done for years and years, and we will show appreciation and respect for the opportunities we have here and be blessed that we have them every day.”

Later on in the interview, Stansbury said that he is sure he will have conversations with players who have an issue with standing for the national anthem and “make him understand, maybe, why we are doing this, why you are here to have this freedom to make that choice.”

This issue first began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick sat during the national anthem in response to what he said were injustices in prosecuting police officers accused of brutality against African-Americans.

Now, athletes and fans around the country are either taking a knee or raising a fist during the national anthem as they join Kaepernick’s cause.

Many citizens are now protesting the anthem because of the recent killing of Tulsa, Oklahoma, native Terence Crutcher.

Crutcher was an unarmed black man who was shot on a Tulsa city street by white police officer Betty Shelby, who has now been arrested and charged with first degree manslaughter.

Personally, I will always stand and respect the flag whenever the anthem is playing, despite the problems the country is facing at the time.

However, I do take issue with some of the things Stansbury said.

First off, I applaud him with wanting to have conversations with his players on this sensitive topic.

This is not an easy conversation to have or to write about, but the fact that he wants to communicate with his players on this issue says a lot about his overall character.

Also, I appreciate his patriotism for his country as he wants the people around him to showcase that same patriotism that so many before us have fought for.

But this is where my problem with his statements arises.

If his players have this freedom given to them by those who bravely gave their lives for this country like he says, then why is he telling these athletes how to express themselves?

Stansbury needs to also keep in mind his players could be protesting because of the recent racist events that has happened on this campus and not just national events.

His comments come just mere weeks after a WKU administrator had racist notes slipped under her office door and a student on campus had racially-charged hate speech carved into the side of her car.

We may commonly see patriotism as someone openly loving our country, but what Stansbury needs to realize is patriotism also comes in the form of a citizen protesting their country in the hopes that positive change occurs.

If an athlete on this campus wanted to peacefully protest the anthem, they should be able to do so without any pressure from anyone to act differently.

It doesn’t matter if you or I disagree with what they are doing. What matters is that a person should feel comfortable with their first amendment right to have their voice heard, even if that voice comes in the form of a bent knee or a raised fist.

Personally, I wish Stansbury could have reflected what Golden State Warriors Head Coach Steve Kerr had to say about national anthem protests.

“This is America,” Kerr said according to the Washington Post. “This is what our country is about. It’s a nonviolent protest. It’s what it should be about.”

“As long as the message is clear, I’m all for people speaking out against injustice,” Kerr said according to USA Today. “Whatever form that takes, if it’s nonviolent and it leads to conversation, then I think that’s a good thing.”

My hope is in the conversations that Stansbury may have with his players, he doesn’t pressure them into doing what he wants. What I hope for is for him to present his own viewpoint just like the player will do and then that athlete is free to act as he pleases.

For me, the most troubling aspect of this national debate is the hate people have for those who have an opposing view. After all, it’s this very hate which caused Kaepernick to take a knee in the first place.

I just hope that we, as a community at WKU, can all come to respect what Stansbury said is each person’s “blessing” to peacefully disagree and not reach for hate.

Reporter John Reecer can be reached at 270-745-6291 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @Reece_12_Falcon.