More than half of the players on the UCSB women’s basketball team have taken to kneeling during the national anthem procession, beginning at the team’s exhibition game versus Cal State Los Angeles on Nov. 6.
The team is the first at UC Santa Barbara to join professional and college athletes across the country in silently protesting police brutality and the oppression of minorities by either kneeling or sitting during the playing of the anthem, following 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick’s initial demonstration in August.
UCSB Director of Athletics John McCutcheon released a statement on Tuesday to Fastbreakers, the UCSB women’s basketball program official booster organization, and other team supporters to address frustrations over the athletes’ decision to kneel.
“We understand that many of you are deeply offended that they have chosen to make this statement during the playing of our national anthem,” McCutcheon said in the statement. “Some of you have been moved to no longer support the team, and we respect your position. Others, however, have supported their act of a peaceful demonstration of their beliefs, and this we respect as well.”
McCutcheon also said the motivation for the act is personal to each student athlete and that the athletic department’s primary mission is to assist Gaucho student athletes in their educational, athletic and social growth.
“It is not for me to attempt to convey why they feel so deeply compelled to do so other than to say it is their way of expressing concern and support for advances in the many areas of social injustice that exist in our world today,” McCutcheon said in the statement.
In addition to fundraising money for the program’s operations, the Fastbreakers serve as a fan base that provides support at both home and away games, allowing fans to build personal relationships with the players and coaches.
“We understand that many of you are deeply offended that they have chosen to make this statement … some of you have been moved to no longer support the team, and we respect your position.” -John McCutcheon
In his statement, McCutcheon acknowledged that, despite the sense of family within the program, not all members will always find a way to get along, something he deeply regrets.
In an exclusive interview with NFL Media in late August, Kaepernick said he understood the risks when he chose not to stand to demonstrate pride in the flag.
“I am not looking for approval. I have to stand up for people that are oppressed,” Kaepernick said. “If they take football away, my endorsements from me, I know that I stood up for what is right.”
The women’s basketball team could not be reached by the Nexus as team staff instructed against commenting to media concerning the decision to kneel.
UCSB will be on the road for its next two games, facing Loyola Marymount this Friday at 7 p.m. at Albert Gersten Pavilion.