USC coach Clay Helton said he would be supportive of his players kneeling during the National Anthem to protest social injustice, but the subject has not yet been broached with him by the team.
“If a young man wants to take a knee, my job is to support them,” Helton told the Hotline.
NFL star Adrian Peterson said last week that he and other players plan to kneel during the Anthem in the wake of the George Floyd killing and commissioner Roger Goodell’s seemingly revised position on peaceful protests.
Helton has discussed the recent events with his players, both individually and as a group.
“These are hard times for black student athletes,’’ he said. “They are hurting. They see it as a time for justice, a time for equality, a time for peace. And they want to be part of the change.
“This generation is so much better than mine. They see this as a time for action.”
The conference wouldn’t stand in the way of players taking a knee — at USC or anywhere else, in football or any sport.
“The Pac-12 fully supports our student-athletes right to freedom of expression and right to peaceful protest,’’ commissioner Larry Scott said in a statement to the Hotline.
“These rights are in the DNA of our universities, and now more than ever it is important to support our student-athletes as they look for ways to play an active role in fighting for social injustice and against racism.”
That ethos can be traced to Jackie Robinson, who played baseball, basketball, football and ran track for UCLA.
But for football players to kneel on the sideline in peaceful protest, logistics would have to change.
College football teams are not typically on the field during the National Anthem, which is played about 15 minutes before the scheduled starting time; the teams enter the playing area about four minutes before kickoff.
In order for players to take a knee during the National Anthem, a change to the timing of the pre-game routine — including the window blocked for the home team’s band — would be required.
Another possible option for players wishing to kneel would be to leave the locker room for the Anthem, then return to the facility until the band has cleared the playing field.
“Each of them wants to share his voice in a certain way,’’ Helton said.
“Some might want to do that by taking a knee.
“Some might go to a protest.
“Some might want to give their opinion.
“My job is to encourage them to share their voice.”
Helton’s comments came during an interview covering multiple topics. Additional articles will be published in coming days.
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