Malcolm Jenkins, safety for the Philadelphia Eagles and former Ohio State football player, raised his fist during the national anthem on Sept. 19 before a game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, joining numerous professional athletes undertaking their own protest.
The widespread protests during the national anthem gained media attention after San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick knelt during the 49ers third preseason game on Aug. 26.
The protest has been growing across the NFL due to the belief by many players that minority citizens in the United States are oppressed.
Jenkins said he has taken notice of the increase of colleges participating in protests, as well.
“I looked up last week across the nation and there’s a bunch of colleges that have participated (in the protest),” Jenkins said. “(University of North Carolina) had 60 or 70 students in their student section, black and white, holding their fist up during the anthem, and it just reinforces the conversation.”
The demonstration of holding one’s fist in the air was first shown this season by Marcus Peters of the Kansas City Chiefs, and is similar to a symbol used by the Black Panthers, the black power activist group of the late 1960s.
With the recent rise of protests at the collegiate and professional levels, questions could be raised about how this could affect the athletic teams at OSU, especially given the widespread media coverage of the Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, police shootings and the protests that followed.
OSU coach Urban Meyer addressed one question about a potential anthem protest during his press conference last week. Meyer said that no football players have requested to kneel or raise their fists during the anthem.
The Ohio State Department of Athletics said in an email statement that it respects the right of all individuals to express themselves. “The department does not have a blanket policy when it comes to the national anthem. Student athletes have the right to express their opinions like anyone else.”
While there has not yet been a visible protest by student athletes at OSU, the University of Virginia men’s basketball team recently showed its freedom of expression in a photo tweeted by guard London Perrantes, in which the entire team knelt symbolically for injustice and equality, according to Perrantes.
“You talk about students in the union and the ability to create change on campus, it’s not only the players but all those students, the student sections, that really make things move,” Jenkins said. “This is an issue that regardless of color needs to be fixed and not tolerated.”
Peter Mansoor, a history professor and retired U.S. Army colonel, shared his thoughts on Kaepernick’s protest of the national anthem.
“Kaepernick’s protest has been effective in generating publicity. But unfortunately the public’s attention has not been focused on his cause, but rather his methods,” Mansoor said. “I would like to see him follow through after the season is over by more concrete, rather than merely symbolic, actions.”
As a 49ers fan, Mansoor also said he took careful notice when Kaepernick began his protest.
“As a veteran of the Iraq War who has seen his soldiers sent home in flag-draped caskets, I was disappointed that Kaepernick would use the national anthem and the flag as the focal point of his protest,” added Mansoor.
Jenkins was joined by linebacker Steven Means and cornerback Ron Brooks of the Eagles during the protest on Sept. 19.