Daily Egyptian

Men’s basketball makes statement on race relations, national anthem

Saluki guard Mike Rodriguez dribbles toward the basket during SIU’s 78-68 victory against Missouri State on Feb. 27, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

Saluki guard Mike Rodriguez dribbles toward the basket during SIU’s 78-68 victory against Missouri State on Feb. 27, 2016, at SIU Arena. (Jacob Wiegand | @JacobWiegand_DE)

By Sean Carley

Before men’s basketball coach Barry Hinson spoke at Friday’s media day, the four seniors in the program declared the team’s official stance on national anthem protests.

“We have decided as a team that we will stand and place our hand over our hearts for the playing of the national anthem,” the quartet said in a group statement.

This is the first time any form of Saluki athletics has taken an official stance on the issue, one Hinson said was made entirely by the team itself.

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“This wasn’t anything we talked about,” he said. “The seniors came up with this.”

Hinson said the team had guests from local law enforcement come in to speak to have a back-and-forth dialogue.

Saluki Men's Basketball and Carbondale Police One on One #MakingADifference #UsingOurPlatform #WeAllIn

A photo posted by Saluki Men's Basketball (@siu_basketball) on

“We got to see others’ point of view,” senior guard Mike Rodriguez said. “We all look at the cops in a bad way right now, but there’s the good cops too.”

After national anthem protests started in the NFL this season, the NBA is slowly following suit in different fashions.

The singer of the national anthem at Tuesday’s Sacramento Kings exhibition, Leah Tysse, took a knee while performing the Star Spangled Banner.

NBA rules state players must stand during the anthem, but the NCAA has no such rules.

Both the team and coach recognized the urgency of the situation.

“As racial injustice continues to be seen around America, it is clear that change is needed,” the team said in the statement.

Hinson said he stands by the players and their decision.

“These are difficult times in our society, we all know that,” he said. “These are trying times and we wanted to make sure you know where we stand as a basketball unit.”

Harvey Welch, Saluki basketball’s first African-American player and a 20-year Air Force veteran, also came in to speak to the team.

MORE: Welch reflects on racism, athletics and philanthropy

After the open forums, the team said it respects people’s right to protest, but agrees the best way to achieve change is by coming together.

“We are forever indebted to the men and women who have given their lives in order for us to have the freedoms bestowed by the First Amendment,” the players said.

Senior forward Sean O’Brien said if other athletes choose to protest, they will be supported.

“We understand there are issues going on … but we just don’t think the national anthem is the right time for that,” he said.

Regardless of the stance the team took, Hinson said he would have supported it.

“We wanted to make sure our guys all stand together,” he said. “I will tell you this now, I will always stand by our players.”

Sports editor Sean Carley can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @SCarleyDE.

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

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