Arkansas head coach Jimmy Dykes instructs his players in the Razorback’s game against Texas in December 2015. State Representative Laurie Rushing wishes the coach had offered the players better instruction about their protest last week. (AP file photo by Alonzo Adams)
Legislator set to meet with athletic director and coach to discuss the women basketball players’ pregame protest.
Published November 8, 2016
Laurie Rushing, the state representative who raised a ruckus about the recent Razorback women basketball players’ protest, wants an apology from the athletic department.
Mrs. Rushing, a graduate of the University of Arkansas, will meet with Athletic Director Jeff Long and Coach Jimmy Dykes on Saturday to ask for it.
“That’s what I intend to ask for,” she said Tuesday night as she prepared to travel to Little Rock for the Republican election night party. “A public apology for the disrespect of the national anthem and the people who have served.”
If the coach will allow her to meet with the players, she “would love to,” she said.
“I’m not looking for an apology from the ladies,” Mrs. Rushing said. “I don’t fault them. I am not against their cause. I feel like they were not given go
od enough instruction from leadership.”
Mrs. Rushing famously tweeted that she “just might take a knee on UA funding” last Thursday night after she learned that six Razorback women basketball players had refused to stand for the national anthem before their exhibition game.
Her public reaction has attracted nearly 250,000 viewers to her Facebook page. Response from people around the state has been 80 percent positive, Mrs. Rushing said.
“They are kind of like me,” she said. “They understand the issue. They are not opposed to the issue. They are opposed to the venue and to the leadership.”
Mr. Long and Mr. Dykes have acknowledged that they discussed the protest with the players before the game. Both have said they support the players’ right to kneel during the national anthem.
“We have knowledge they met with these ladies beforehand. The leadership knew they were going to do this,” said Mrs. Rushing, who ran unopposed this cycle for her second term in the state legislature. “They had to know there would be an outcry.”
Although the athletic director and the coach had prior knowledge of the plan, Coach Dykes doesn’t know whether the players will continue the protest, he told the crowd at a weekly luncheon on Monday. The women open their season at 10:30 a.m. Friday in Fayetteville against Sam Houston State.
Mrs. Rushing is approaching this issue the same way she approaches her work in the legislature, she said, by attempting to discuss it with everyone involved. “I want to meet with them, and see how we can resolve this,” she said. “I to understand everybody’s position and learn how we can come to agreement that’s going to be good for everybody. That’s my main objective.”
She also hopes to broaden the conversation into “talk about the what-ifs for other sports.”