Just weeks after two Mystics took a knee at a MWSU football game during the national anthem, several more students joined in on the protest at the Homecoming football game.
Four or five students in the stands sat during the national anthem at the beginning of Missouri Western’s Homecoming game against Pittsburg State. Two Mystics on the field also took a knee during the anthem, something that they have done before.
President of the Missouri Western chapter of the NAACP Alexis Williams said that sitting out the anthem was meant to bring attention to the Black Lives Matter movement and to make a statement against violence against African Americans.
“We did it because we have the right. The only thing that we are trying to say, in different forms, is ‘stop killing us.’ I think that’s all it comes down to,” Williams said. “We’re not disrespecting anybody, not to the military. We are not anti-military. We just think that [sitting during] the national anthem is a good way to show that we support Black Lives Matter and we support pro-life. That’s all we’re saying. We deserve to live.”
The sit-down demonstration was organized by members of NAACP, the Black Student Union (BSU), Phi Beta Sigma and some other students.
While the number of student participated in sit-down protest was small, Williams said that were more people who planned to be involved, but the opening events began before they could get into Spratt Stadium.
“We got word that the school knew,” Williams said. “We do have some Alphas down at the bottom of the hill who were going to participate. I think that’s why they started earlier and why they did the national anthem earlier than they usually do because they weren’t supposed to start until 2 p.m. and then they started at 1:50. I’m thinking that they did it on purpose. But the people who got here early, supported and participated, that’s all we can ask.”
However, according to Asst. Director of Public Relations and Marketing Kent Heier, the anthem on Saturday’s game occurred on time.
“The anthem is always played approximately 6 minutes before the scheduled kickoff, following a schedule timeline recommended by the NCAA and MIAA. There are times when it may be a minute or two earlier or later than that, depending on other pre-game activities, but Athletics generally tries to stick to that schedule as strictly as possible, so that kick-off can take place at the scheduled time,” Heier said.
President of the BSU Ravyn Highsmith also participated in sitting down during the national anthem and said that their demonstration sparked some reaction from the crowd.
“There were some people yelling to stand up, but that’s three compared to the hundreds that were in the crowd,” Highsmith said.
Still, Highsmith said that the remarks hurt her, but do not prevent her from protesting.
“I think it does make me feel sad because it’s almost a little pathetic to think that because we are sitting, it is affecting you that much that you have to scream out, stand up. It’s really not necessary at the end of the day. It does hurt my feelings, but feelings I can get over those. I’m still going to sit down.”
While this is the second sit-downs protest to come to Missouri Western, don’t expect it to be the last. Williams said they plan to continue sitting down during the national anthem at sporting events to call attention to the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think it needs to be something that’s ongoing,” Williams said. “I think the more that we do it, the more questions get asked and the more you understand our movement while we’re doing it. So, I have no problem doing it during any game that I attend in the future and we plan on keeping it going for the rest of the year.”
Both Williams and Highsmith encouraged understanding the Black Lives Matter movement and having an open dialogue about the hardships people of color in this country face.
“I think it’s our jobs and our duty at this school, because ignorance is not an excuse,” Williams said. “I think “I don’t know” is not a reasonable excuse. There are plenty of outlets for you to know.”
“If you’re curious, if you’re naïve, if you’re just plain ignorant about the movement, it’s okay, but I rather you ask me the question than just make decisions on the basis of just your opinion if you do not understand the movement,” Highsmith said. “If you do not want to deal with us, that’s fine, but if you can at least say that you understand why we’re sitting, then I’m okay with that. You do not have to agree with me, but I’m not going to stop at the end of the day.”