NU president responds to news report involving 'Kneeling Players'

By  | 

Reaction has intensified to the three Husker football players taking a knee during the National Anthem at last Saturday's football game.

Senior linebacker Michael Rose-Ivey, redshirt freshman Mohamed Barry and freshman DaiShon Neal took a knee during the anthem ahead of the game against Northwestern University, last Saturday.

A local newspaper report published a quote, Tuesday, by Board of Regent member Hal Daub in which he reportedly said the players should be kicked off the team for their actions.

When 10/11 News reached out to Daub to confirm what he said, he told 10/11 that his comments were taken out of context and he was calling the newspaper asking for a retraction.

Daub then told our sister station WOWT in an on camera interview he disagrees with the players decisions and called it disrespectful, but added he did not say the players should be kicked off the team.

Daub also said, "Their conduct at away games from now on will be, I think, more carefully observed. I think that they should be careful not to disrespect our flag in a time-honored tradition of paying our respect to our flag and our country at football games."

10/11 News also reached out to the chairman of the Board of Regents, Kent Schroeder. He said while he was personally disappointed in the players' decision, he respects their right to free speech.
Schroeder also told 10/11 that the chances of the board voting on kicking any players off the team is highly unlikely.

Just hours after the initial report was published, University of Nebraska President Hank Bounds released the following statement:

"I have served in the military. I understand love of country and love of the flag and I know that freedom is not free. Many Nebraskans have expressed their opinions about the actions of our student-athletes on Saturday night. Some are supportive. Some disagree, even passionately so. That all are free to state their opinion is the beauty of living in a country like the United States. The same freedoms that protect their speech also protect our students’ speech – whether they’re kneeling during the national anthem, holding a flag on the field, praying after the game or expressing their opinion during class. All of that speech falls under the same category. All of it is protected by the First Amendment.

"The University of Nebraska’s position on free speech is abundantly clear. As explicitly stated in Board of Regents policy which has been in place for almost a half century: 'Members of the academic community have the right to extensive latitude in making their opinions known … The public exploration and resolution of differing views can be successful only when groups and individuals discuss the issues in forums where the right to disagree, speak freely and be heard is preserved.'

"Our nation is dealing with difficult issues today, as we have for virtually our entire history. Each of us will react differently. College campuses, as much as any space, must be places where robust, even uncomfortable, debate is welcomed and encouraged. Our students, faculty and staff absolutely enjoy the right to participate in these dialogues in the manner they choose under the First Amendment and Board policy."

Chancellor Ronnie Green was not available for comment, but as statement from the university said, ".. he supports what the Department of Athletics and President Bounds have communicated in this matter."

Monday, Husker player, Michael Rose-Ivey said they were joining in solidarity with San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other professional and amateur athletes who are kneeling or otherwise protesting racial injustice and police brutality.

Regent Rob Schafer also released a statement regarding the players kneeling:

"As someone who has served in the armed forces for more than 31 years and continues to serve our country, I am honored and privileged to be able to protect the very freedoms that these Nebraska football players have chosen to exercise.

University of Nebraska athletics is a unifying source of pride for our state that should not be used as a forum for political or social debate. I do not support the venue these student athletes chose to express their political or social viewpoint. Student athletes are given a tremendous opportunity and responsibility to represent the University of Nebraska on and off the playing field. If student athletes feel compelled to express a political or social viewpoint, I encourage them to find and use other venues to do so.

Now let me address the concerns that these student athletes were highlighting with their protest during the national anthem. As former President George W. Bush said on Saturday at the opening of the African American History Museum, "the journey toward justice is still not complete." Many African Americans believe the justice system is tilted against them, and too many Americans of every skin color are victims of violence. These are real issues that cannot be ignored and should be addressed through conversations and positive actions in our homes, in our schools, in our communities, and across our states and nation. A starting point is to initiate dialogues regarding our differences and to instill in our young people respect for all life."