Once at a Wildcats game, I sat during our national anthem.
It was fall 1966, probably. UK had not yet integrated our basketball team, and the University of Illinois (I think it was them) had integrated theirs. Two black players were warming up in front of us. I guess those were the first black college players ever to compete in Memorial Coliseum.
I could hear several nearby students hurling racial taunts. After listening to jeers of “n---er” this and “n---er” that, I sat during the national anthem.
I sat because I was ashamed of our students (my peers) and their behavior. And I sat because I knew that their behavior was representative of my country and its treatment of black citizens, of my “neighbors.”
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I sat, and I was embarrassed and afraid as I did so.
And I was also sad. I was sad because the playing of the national anthem should be a call to community, a call to a higher feeling of inspiration and love.
But that evening, I sat. Because I was simply not willing to stand with racism and with hate.
Many NFL players will again “take a knee” this weekend. Since slavery and Jim Crow were legally ended, our military men and women have been serving (presumably) to ensure the right of these protesters to do so.
Richard Watts Franklin