Colin Kaepernick’s national anthem protest has spread throughout the NFL to the WNBA and even to high schools. It’s also made its way to college basketball, where Virginia posted photos to social media of the team kneeling at center court.
South Carolina coach Frank Martin lent his expansive thoughts on the topic.
“When I found out what he did,” Martin said, “I was proud that an athlete didn’t want to be vanilla and consumed with his paycheck that he wouldn’t be willing to take a stance on what he thought was right and wrong.
“I applaud celebrities that are willing to bring attention to what’s wrong or to what’s right. I don’t like celebrities that like to go vanilla on the things that really matter because if they hide from taking chances it means they’re only concerned about their status their paycheck and their future, not impacting the ones that don’t have the stage that they’re on.”
Martin, whose mother and her family left Cuba in 1961, took issue with exactly how Kaepernick’s protest has unfolded, however. In one instance, Kaepernick wore a shirt with an image of Fidel Castro on it to a press conference.
“If you’re going to talk the words oppression,” Martin said “if that’s the avenue, don’t talk about oppression and celebrate Fidel Castro because no one has oppressed more people and killed more people, more black people than Fidel Castro.
“So when he decided to take that moment, he didn’t express himself the right way. That’s why everyone started talking about the military and everything else because the message he tried to portray was not portrayed in the proper manner in that moment.
“If he would have been standing up there in a coat and tie or in a collared shirt and said police brutality or social injustice, then that would have been the conversation rather than the military and everything that it took.”
As for his thoughts on one or more of his player’s protesting during the anthem, Martin said, “A lot of people talk the talk but do you walk the walk? If there’s something you don’t like, you have a platform. People will listen to you.
“Just make sure you’re prepared to express what you don’t like the right way. So if they choose to not support the national anthem, that will be disappointing for me, but it’s their right. It doesn’t mean I have to agree with them. It’s their right. Anyone that questions that is out of their minds. That’s why this is the greatest country in the whole world.”
Martin said he addressed the issue with his players the day he returned from a trip outside the country and learned of Kaepernick’s actions.
“I asked our players, who in this room has this country held back, who, how?” he said. “Nobody raised their hands. So how can you tell me this country holds you back but it’s never held you back? But it’s popular on Twitter to say, ‘Oh this country holds you back.’
“Like I told our players, this country doesn’t hold you back. Some of us have more obstacles in front of us than others but nobody is grabbing us from behind. Some of us have to learn how to clear more hurdles to get where we want to go than others.
“Some people run a 100-meter dash, some people run a 100-meter hurdle race. That’s the difference here in this country. What we have to figure out a way to unite because that’s what makes us great, that we all get a platform to speak, to express ourselves, to move forward if we have the courage to get over the hurdles, this country opens its doors to you. That’s the deal.”