Stadiums have become the new place of debate as professional athletes have used their platforms to highlight controversies that surround the country’s current political and social climate.
Last Sunday, 204 of the 1,696 NFL players protested during the national anthem after only six had protested the week prior. These protests took many forms: A bent knee, a raised fist, linked arms or even staying in the locker room. They were all met with harsh criticism.
Some NFL teams took a different, safer approach. Saints quarterback Drew Brees tweeted that his team “would kneel in solidarity prior to the national anthem and stand together during the anthem.”
As a way to show respect to all, our #Saints team will kneel in solidarity prior to the national anthem & stand together during the anthem.
— Drew Brees (@drewbrees) September 29, 2017
While these protests have firmly grasped the attention of the country, they haven’t carried over to Cal State Fullerton’s athletic teams so far.
CSUF volleyball and men’s and women’s soccer teams have all entered Big West conference play, meaning the Titans will not only have to face bigger opponents, but they will also have more media attention.
But do the Titans plan to use the extra spotlight to protest?
CSUF women’s volleyball Head Coach Ashley Preston said she and her players aren’t sure if they’ll participate in the protests.
“We had a discussion and we talked about it as a team. We understand and respect everyone’s differences. So if you see our team linking arms and some have their arms in different ways, that’s them expressing their right and expressing what they believe,” Preston said.
Preston added that she wouldn’t stop her players from expressing themselves.
“I think in history, peaceful protest has always been regarded as respectful. So I believe in what they’re doing,” Preston said. “As long as it’s in the realm of what it means to be peaceful and the First Amendment and freedom of speech, then that is within their discretion of whatever they want to do.”
Freshman volleyball player Tyler Fezzey said she stands with professional athletes and their message, agreeing that their status in the media is being used the right way.
“I think everyone has the right to exercise their freedom of speech,” Fezzey said. “They’re just people like anyone else, and they’re using their platform the best way they can.”
But Fezzey also blames the media for shining a false light on the athletes and stirring up confusion among the public.
“I think it’s something that obviously is being misconstrued in the media. I think people need to make sure they do their research and really understand what the athletes are doing, what their purpose is,” Fezzey said. “I think as long as anyone is respectful in what they believe, that they should be allowed to exercise their freedom of speech.”
Preston said no matter what the Titans do, they’ll do it together, a recurring theme among CSUF athletes.
Titans men’s soccer defender Sam Molz understands that the protests have been in full swing in the last week for all the right reasons but said he doesn’t expect to take a knee anytime soon.
“It’s better than people going out and being violent to prove their point,” Molz said. “I personally would never sit out on (the national anthem), but I see why people are doing it.”
Molz isn’t the only Titan on the men’s team to feel this way. Sophomore forward Rei Dorwart agrees that his type of protest is one that doesn’t need to be showcased in the stadium.
“I don’t know if I would ever sit out on the national anthem. I believe that everyone has the right to sit out if they want. As long as it’s not harming anyone in a physical way, then it’s fine,” Dorwart said.
Although the Titans don’t have any out-of-the-ordinary gestures planned, the Titans will continue to support for one another in all dimensions – even if it’s on one knee.
“Though we all have differences of opinion, in our team, we stand united,” Preston said.