If Cal football takes knee during national anthem, fans should too

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NFL players across the country took a knee this Sunday during the national anthem in protest of President Donald Trump’s disparaging remarks toward athletes who had already participated in this movement. If members of the Cal football team follow their lead and make a statement in Oregon next weekend, the fans should support them.

When Trump publicly condemned (in a tweet, no less) football players’ rights to peacefully protest, he created an unprecedented level of political unity in the sports world. On Sunday, players of all beliefs across the NFL, and even different sports, stood arm in arm with a powerful message: The president doesn’t get to decide which kind of peaceful protest is acceptable and which is not.

It all started in 2016, when Colin Kaepernick, a reserve quarterback for the 49ers, took a knee during the national anthem to take a stand against police brutality. His action prompted a symbolic movement across the country by other football players.

Should Cal football players, and all Cal athletes, follow the lead of professional teams — nearly every member of the Oakland Raiders took a knee during the anthem Sunday — they would not be acting without precedent.

In December 2014, in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement, the Cal women’s basketball team wore T-shirts stamped with “I can’t breathe,” referencing Eric Garner’s death at the hands of a police officer.

And in October 2016, football players at Berkeley High School took a knee to protest racial inequality and diversity issues at BHS, following the example of Kaepernick.

College athletes should take the platform they hold seriously. Last week, nearly 50,000 fans watched Cal Football play USC. Many more watched the game on ABC.

Making a statement like kneeling during the anthem would send a powerful message to these viewers that college athletes do not turn a blind eye to systemic racism that so many suffer from in this country.  

Editorials represent the majority opinion of the Editorial Board as written by the opinion editor.

Clarification(s):
A previous version of this editorial may have implied Cal Football players are on the field during the national anthem. In fact, they are not. The editorial has been updated to reflect that Cal athletes can use their platform to support this movement.

Correction(s):
A previous version of this editorial incorrectly stated that nearly 50,000 fans watched as Cal Football players honored the flag during the national anthem. In fact, Cal Football players were not on the field during the national anthem.