Nebraska men’s basketball coach Tim Miles knows that when the Cornhuskers take the court for their exhibition opener in little more than a month, the national anthem protests that have captured the sports world might be present on his own team.
It’s been an ongoing conversation behind closed doors, Miles told HuskerOnline.com on Wednesday.
“We’ve talked with our guys about it, and we’re going to continue to meet about it,” Miles told Robin Washut from HuskerOnline.com. “If there’s someone that wants to make a stand or a statement or whatever it is, we’re going to let them, and I think rightfully so.”
The recent movement of protesting the “Star-Spangled Banner” before sporting events began when San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick took a knee during the song before a preseason game in August. “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Kaepernick said after the game in late August.
The protest movement has since spread across the sports landscape, with both professional and amateur athletes — including college and high-school players — taking part in various types of anthem protests.
And Lincoln is no stranger to the movement and the ensuing firestorm that can come from it. Before the Cornhuskers’ Sept. 24 game at Northwestern, Nebraska football players Michael Rose-Ivey, Mo Barry and DaiShon Neal took a knee during the national anthem.
Afterward, Rose-Ivey said the three players were subjected to threats and racial slurs by angered Nebraska fans, with coach Mike Riley voicing his support for his players and a University of Nebraska regent saying he believes the players should be kicked off the team.
“We’ve got a guy like Isaiah Roby, whose dad did three tours in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Miles told HuskerOnline.com about understanding the concerns of those opposed to the protests. “We’ve got guys with dads who fought in wars. My dad was a veteran.
“But we live in such an inclusive environment around our team, we don’t always realize what a climate is in somebody’s hometown and how difficult it can be for them, and really, that’s what people are talking about, is to make America better. Not make America worse or be against America. I think everyone wants to make America better.
“Millennials are like that in general anyway. They’ve got bleeding hearts and want to make everything better everywhere, and that’s good. So we’re going to talk about it as a team, and if there’s a compelling individual or small group of individuals, we’ll support that.”
Miles brought the topic up to his team a week ago, he said, and still has no idea if any athletes plan on protesting. He said he planned to meet with the team again in a week or two after giving them time to think about it.
“They can think about what they want to do,” Miles said. “Or if they’ve got some thoughts they can have it well thought out and we can go from there.”
Nebraska finished 16-18 last season with a 6-12 record in the Big Ten.