Sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, left, and sophomore pre-med major Alaysia Brandy, both of Chiacgo, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Saluki's matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Mu–oz | @BrianMMunoz) (Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz)
Sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, left, and sophomore pre-med major Alaysia Brandy, both of Chiacgo, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Saluki's matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. (Brian Mu–oz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Munoz | @BrianMMunoz

Saluki Athletics discusses past response to student-athlete’s kneeling protests

The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police has sparked conversation concerning the issues these cheerleaders and other athletes knelt for once again, as individuals worldwide have taken to the streets to protest police brutality.

August 15, 2020

In 2017, three SIU cheerleaders took a knee during the national anthem at a home football game to protest police brutality. Following the protest, the SIU athletics program took action by releasing statements requiring SIU athletes to be neutral on political issues while in uniform. 

During this time, the cheerleaders were also removed from the stadium during the national anthem. 

Czarina Tinker, Alyasia Brandy and Ariahn Hunt are the cheerleaders who participated in this protest. Brandy is the only cheerleader who returned to the squad.

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Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the national anthem during the regular season in 2016 to draw attention to the injustices that were happening in the African American community such as police brutality. Since then, many other athletes followed his lead and knelt during the national anthem in solidarity and protest.

The recent death of George Floyd at the hands of police has sparked conversation concerning the issues these cheerleaders and other athletes knelt for once again, as individuals worldwide have taken to the streets to protest police brutality.

Saluki athletics made their stance clear on this issue in the past and with the current social climate in our country, their stance has shifted. 

Current Saluki athletic director Liz Jarnigan had spoken about this issue in 2018 stating: “It is a privilege and not a right to be a student athlete, cheerleader or spirit member at Southern Illinois University.” 

When asked about her stance in a recent interview, Jarnigan said, “I support all of our students in our department and their right to free speech.” 

Though no new policies are going to be put into place, student athletes will not be prevented from protesting in their programs.

“We don’t have any specific policies in that regard, other than we are not going to keep anyone from kneeling if they feel like they need to do that during the national anthem. We are not going to mandate one way or the other what people do,”  Jarnigan said.

Despite this, Jarnigan says that there will be no change in the Code of Conduct which states that any display of activism will result in the individual’s removal from their respective program.

Newly appointed SIU Chancellor, Austin Lane, said he supports student’s rights to protest as long as it does not affect the learning environment.

 “Students have the right to be able to express themselves and yes their constitutional rights should be upheld. Students should be allowed to protest as long as it is peaceful and not disruptive to the academic environment,” Lane said.

Lane also mentioned a diversity task force that will look at the policies around the university that relate to diversity and injustice and make sure they do not negatively impact the students or staff. 

The athletics program instagram page recently participated in “Black Out Tuesday,” which was meant to draw attention to the Black Lives Matter movement. 

 “Athletics does not have a specific platform when it comes to anything that’s political, I will say that there are those in our community who believe that the statement Black Lives Matter is political. For me personally, for us, and for our institution Black lives matter and we see that as a matter of humanity and not a political statement,” Jarnigan said.

The SIU athletics department currently does not have any diversity and/or sensitivity training, but Jarnigan is working on finding ways to educate their athletes.

“Due to the climate of our country, we realize that more needs to be done and so […] We need to find ways that go beyond words. Words are important when it comes to inclusivity but they are not enough,”  Jarnigan said. 

Lane mentioned that there is going to be some work done within the athletics department with Jarnigan and Todd Bryson, the associate Chancellor for diversity. He said they are going to look into training in diversity and programs for student athletes. 

Lane said he wants to discuss these programs not only in athletics but across the University. 

Sports reporter Janae Mosby can be reached at jmosby@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter at @mosbyj.

To stay up to date with all your southern Illinois news, follow the Daily Egyptian on Facebook and Twitter.

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1 Comment

One Response to “Saluki Athletics discusses past response to student-athlete’s kneeling protests”

  1. rmd88888 on August 28th, 2020 8:07 am

    I appreciate the DE re-visiting this story. In retrospect, I am ashamed at how SIUC treated the cheerleaders who knelt. What they did took guts.

    Can we talk about how drastic and punitive the policy regarding activism is? “any display of activism will result in the individual’s removal from their respective program.” This needs to be changed. These athletes are more than bodies. They come to this university because they have minds. Let them be heard.

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