Taking a stand on one knee

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Taking a stand on one knee

Sophomore radio, television and digital media major Czarina Tinker, of Nashville, Tennessee, left, and sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, of Chicago, far right, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis' matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, late last month.
(Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Sophomore radio, television and digital media major Czarina Tinker, of Nashville, Tennessee, left, and sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, of Chicago, far right, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis' matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, late last month. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Sophomore radio, television and digital media major Czarina Tinker, of Nashville, Tennessee, left, and sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, of Chicago, far right, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis' matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, late last month. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz

Sophomore radio, television and digital media major Czarina Tinker, of Nashville, Tennessee, left, and sophomore psychology major Ariahn Hunt, of Chicago, far right, kneel during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis' matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, late last month. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

By Denton "Gio" Giovenco, Sports Editor

While a crowd of 9,112 fans removed their hats and stood at attention for the National Anthem prior to last Saturday’s SIU vs. UNI showdown in Saluki Stadium, three Saluki cheerleaders used the public stage to take a knee in protest.

Sophomore cheerleaders Czarina Tinker, Ariahn Hunt and Alaysia Brandy were unsure of how the rest of the squad would react to their intent to kneel during the anthem, so they decided not to share their plans.

“We actually had protests during the National Anthem … we were being told to stand up from our squad.” Tinker, the radio, television and digital media major said of telling the squad before the game.

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Hunt, a psychology major, explained her reasons for kneeling during the anthem.

“It’s not a protest against the flag. It’s not a protest against Donald Trump,” the Chicago native said. “It was a protest for our civil rights that we are still fighting for, that we have been fighting for, for hundreds of years and we’re not getting any justice.”

Brandy, a pre-Med student studying biological sciences, mirrored Hunt’s sentiments.

“Just because it’s 2017 and we’re still fighting for our civil rights that our ancestors have been fighting for, for years,” she said. “Black people and minorities as a whole have still been trying to become equal in society, and it has not changed.”

Tinker’s reason for kneeling focused on how minorities are treated by law enforcement.

“I did it because we still haven’t had justice against police brutality,” the sports media student said. “Nothing has been done and it needs to change ASAP.”

Hailing from Nashville, Tennessee, Tinker has been active in protesting police brutality in her home town.

“We do a lot of Black Lives Matter walks and stuff to inform people that we are still fighting and police brutality has to end,” she said.

The most recent protest she took part in organizing was for Eric Garner, a 43-year-old man whose death during an altercation with a New York City Police Department (NYPD) officer was ruled a homicide.

“When he was choked out and he died, that’s when we were like ‘This is not right’; he clearly said he couldn’t breathe and nothing happened [to help him],” Tinker said. “The protest started small with a couple of my friends and we passed out fliers and said ‘Hey, we’re walking across downtown [Nashville]’ and then it just happened. It turned into a lot of people showing support.”

Sophomore pre-med major Alaysia Brandy, of Chicago, kneels during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis’ matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, last week. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Hunt is also active in fighting against social injustice as a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) through the SIU chapter, as well as volunteering in the surrounding area.

“We go out and we have protested before,” she said. “We always are active in the community. We help clean up Carbondale; anything that’s going to help benefit our community as a whole.”

Brandy shares a similar history with her squad mates.

“I volunteered in a few protests back home in Chicago,” she said. “And I’ve also done community service and just cleaned up our communities, and volunteering at the Boys & Girls Club.”

All three proclaimed that they fully intend to continue their protests during the anthem going forward.

“I will kneel until this protest continues if that’s what I have to do,” Hunt said.

Brandy further explained what they strive to achieve with their future protests.

“Just for the fact when people say ‘Kneeling doesn’t stop police brutality’, the same way we wear pink to support awareness for breast cancer we’re trying to get awareness for what’s happening in the black communities still,” she said. “Because it’s such a controversial thing and how people are upset that we aren’t standing for the flag — because they feel like we are disrespecting America — it shows awareness and brings attention to our cause. So until the problems are solved, we’re going to continue to kneel.”

As far as having an adequate voice on campus is concerned, the spirit squad members believe their position in front of the public eye affords them a proper platform for their protests.

“They recognize you even outside of campus,” Hunt said. “It happens all the time.”

Brandy agreed.

“All the time,” the pre-Med major said. “At Walmart, when you’re walking down the street, people are like ‘Oh, you are the cheerleaders’, so now we’re going to be the cheerleaders they recognize after today.”

The cheerleaders plan on discussing their choice to protest with the rest of the squad in hopes to foster better understanding of their motives and educate on the underlying societal issues.

“The best way for them to understand where we’re coming from, we will tell them the background because most people don’t know unless it’s what the media tells them,” Brandy said. “The media portrays black people in such a negative light, like if someone gets shot its ‘Oh, he was a gang-banger’ or ‘He was a thug.’”

Brandy plans to explain in detail what she sees as it pertains to how minorities are portrayed in the media.

“They always show mug shots and never show the graduation pictures like they do when people of the majority commit crimes and they have their graduation pictures up,” she said. “They always show us in a negative light. So just to show them what the community is and show them why we’re fighting for this, and maybe they’ll understand.”

Sophomore radio, television and digital media major Czarina Tinker, of Nashville, Tennessee kneels during the national anthem Saturday, Sept. 30, 2017 before the Salukis’ matchup against the University of Northern Iowa Panthers at Saluki Stadium. President Donald Trump publically criticized NFL athletes who kneel during the National Anthem to protest police brutality, last week. (Brian Muñoz | @BrianMMunoz)

Hunt stressed that they are not looking to incite arguments and divide the squad.

“You always have to be peaceful; this is a peaceful protest,” she said. “No matter what, people do have their right to their own opinion and we respect that. But we will stay calm and we will let you know with a calm voice what our point is and we will get across.”

In regards to expectations on how the discussion with the rest of the cheerleading squad will go, Tinker said “We’ll find out at practice.”

With the three Saluki cheerleaders planning on continuing their protests in the future, they want to make clear that their actions do not mean they are unpatriotic.

“This wasn’t a protest against the flag,” Tinker said.

Hunt elaborated on the sentiment.

“We definitely support our country,” she said. “We definitely support the people that fought for our country. We just want support also.”

Brandy finished with a statement that she believes sums up what all three of them are striving for with the protests.

“We just want the equal respect we give to America, we want America to give to us,” she said. “We want society to look at us as equals and that’s all we’ve ever been asking for. And Black Lives Matter.”

Sports writer Denton “Gio” Giovenco can be reached at dgiovenco@dailyegyptian.com or on Twitter @DentonGiovenco.

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

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