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Students Make Social Justice Statement Kneeling at SA-Sponsored Event

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About 20 students gathered around the small fountain at the University at Albany on Nov. 13 for an event held by the Student Association in solidarity with the recent actions of former NFL star Colin Kaepernick.

Kaepernick has been in the spotlight for kneeling during the National Anthem during football games. Though supported by many other NFL players, his behavior has received both strong negative and positive opinions from the general public.

Fontaine said that the response to the event on campus was mostly positive.

“We are trying to create a platform for student who are very passionate about social movements,” said Fontaine.

Frank Wiley, University Police Department Chief of Police, also spoke at the event.

“I’m always interested in issues of fundamental fairness and social justice,” said Wiley. “I have a responsibility to this community and every community that I’m a part of to contribute to it in the most positive ways that I can.”

Wiley said that he feels Kaepernick is fighting for unity and pushing for Americans to have uncomfortable conversations to avoid having uncomfortable confrontations.

“Athletes have been involved in social issues for a very long time and while he absolutely is today’s news, there are other people that have taken very serious stands.’’

Wiley cited athletes like Muhammed Ali, who in 1967 refused to be drafted into the military while the U.S. was at war with Vietnam. In 1968, John Carlos and Tommie Smith raised a close fist as a symbol of Black Power instead of saluting on the award podium at the Olympics. Now retired NBA player Kareem Abdul-Jabbar refused to play for the men’s basketball team in the 1968 Olympic Games.

In a poll conducted by CNN, 49 percent of respondents said they think that players kneeling for the anthem are ‘doing the wrong thing.’ 82 percent of African Americans said it was the right thing to do.

Wiley said he admires what Kaepernick is doing because Kaepernick is willing to suffer a tremendous deficit as a result of the positions that he’s taken.

Wiley also said that he feels there has been undue attention on whether or not this is disrespectful to the military or the flag. Wiley said that the intention of the protest was always on fundamental fairness and the idea of liberty and justice for all, not disrespect.

“Use your platforms to really make a change because if we don’t do it for our own generation, it’s going to continue being a problem and we’re never going to see change,” said Fontaine.

The majority of students in attendance kneeled at Fontaine’s encouragement at the end of the event.

Class of '18: Jasmine Millner is a journalism major at the University at Albany. She also works for campus recreation as a program assistant and zumba instructor. When she’s not writing for the ASP, she’s on the e-board for Stilettos Dance Team, a member of Phenomenal Voices, and produces a show on Albany Student Television, Girl Talk.

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