In the game against South Carolina in March 2015, Arkansas Coach Jimmy Dykes talks to Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville. Ms. Jackson, a starter, remained standing during the National Anthem last week while six of her teammates knelt. (AP file photo by Danny Johnston)
Update: At the weekly fan luncheon in Fayetteville on Monday, Coach Jimmy Dykes refused to say whether his players would continue their protest. “Like everything else in our program, that’s day-to-day,” said Mr. Dykes, who took questions from fans but not from reporters, according to the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
By Jay Grelen and Evin Demirel
State Representative Laurie Rushing wasn’t joking Thursday night when she tweeted that she “just might take a knee on UA funding” after six members of the Razorback women’s basketball team took a knee during the pre-game rendition of the national anthem.
For those who were wondering whether she might untweet, she instead followed up with another on Friday: “You stand for the Flag, and you kneel for the fallen!”
Mrs. Rushing, a first-term legislator who is a real-estate agent in Hot Springs, is upset with the athletic director and the women’s coach, she told AMP.
“Each year we have to approve the budget and include the salaries of all employees at UA,” she said. “I would vote against raising the salaries of (coach) Jimmy Dykes and (athletic director) Jeff Long – we control the budget, and we control how the money is allocated.
“They owe an apology to the people of Arkansas.”
Governor Asa Hutchinson offered a measured statement on his website: “By standing at attention when our national anthem is played, we show honor and respect to all of those who sacrificed everything to protect the freedoms we enjoy today – including the right to express our opinions. I hope to understand more fully the message these young ladies were trying to convey, but I would encourage student athletes to find ways to both respect the flag and to engage in public debate on issues they care about.”
Of the six players who refused to stand for the National Anthem and the military color guard, only one, Jailyn Mason of Mason, Ohio, started. The others who refused to stand, according to the Arkansas Razorbacks athletic department, were: Jordan Danberry of Conway; Tatiyana Smith of Plano, Texas; Kiara Williams of Little Rock; Yasmeen Ratliff of Alpharetta, Georgia; and Briunna Freeman of Pelham, Georgia.
All six of the players are attending the University of Arkansas on full scholarship.
Mrs. Rushing supports the right of the women to protest, she said, just not while they are representing the state of Arkansas at state-supported university in a taxpayer-funded facility under the direction of tax-payer supported leaders.
“My issue is more with Coach Dykes and Athletic Director Long,” she said. “I have issues with them encouraging this type of behavior. When those girls put those uniforms on, they need to know they are representing the university and the people of Arkansas.
“At that point, they are taking taxpayer money, and they are making a statement with taxpayer money on how they stand and how they feel. When they take them off, they can protest all they want.”
A statewide hubbub erupted last night after six members of the Razorback women’s basketball team kneeled during a pre-game performance of the national anthem. “You all know that there’s been a lot of killings from police officers of African-Americans and other minorities,” Razorback Jordan Danberry, a Conway native, said after the game at Bud Walton Arena. “Me and my teammates took a knee today during the national anthem to speak for those who are oppressed. As Razorback student-athletes, we have a platform to do that.”
Mr. Dykes, and Mr. Long defended the players. “I am very, very proud of them,” Coach Dykes said. “They had very, very strong, well-informed, educated opinions based on their real-life experiences, their real-life emotions.”
A campus is a place of learning, Mr. Long said, “and thus places where differences of opinion and varying perspectives are recognized. We respect the rights of our student-athletes and all individuals to express themselves on important issues in our nation.”
State senators Jim Hendren and Jason Rapert were among those critical of the players. “Perhaps we reconsider the U of A budget since some in leadership don’t get it,” Mr. Rapert tweeted.