Bates Football Players Mickoy Nichol ‘18, Andrew Segal ‘17, Walter Washington ‘19 and Marquise Scott ‘20 have joined hundreds of other athletes around the country in kneeling during the National Anthem before athletic contests to protest racial injustice and police brutality in America.
This wave of protests, that has ranged from high profile athletes like Megan Rapinoe of the U.S. women’s national team to peewee football teams, first started when N.F.L quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49’ers began sitting, and then kneeling, during the national anthem of his team’s preseason games this past August. Kaepernick has continued his protest through the season thus far, and many other athletes have joined him.
For Nichol, who originally organized this protest with his teammates, taking a knee for racial injustice was not always a sure thing.
“I initially wasn’t going to do it, but then I saw a picture on the internet of three Eagles players standing with their fists raised… and across the picture was ‘get these n*****s off the TV.’ I was like whoa, this is really a problem.”
Nichol is referencing the Week two N.F.L. game in which three Eagles players raised a fist, a symbol of black power and another common form of protest, along with the taking a knee, during the national anthem. After seeing a racist caption appended to a photo of these three players in the week leading up to Bates’ opening game against Trinity, Nichol could not remain passive any longer.
“Okay I definitely have to stand up for this now.,” he recalls thinking. “I had talked to the team in our Friday meetings before the Trinity game, and a few guys said they were in. I told them if you support this it is totally fine. If you don’t for your personal reasons that is totally fine as well.”
“One thing I made clear to my teammates and my coach is I’m not protesting America as a whole, I’m protesting the America that is blind to these racial injustices and discrimination that is going on in this country.”
Nichols says that when he approached his coaching staff with his decision to kneel, they told him they had already discussed the several occasions that had already occurred nationally and as broadcasted on the news. They gave him their full support to carry out the protest.
Kaepernick and other protesters have been met with mixed responses to their peaceful demonstrations, garnering outpourings of support and affirmation, as well as accusations of being anti-American and anti-Military.
For Nichol and his teammates, the response has largely been positive.
“One of my goals was to create conversation,” he said. “A lot of my white friends who don’t play a sport came to the game [vs. Williams] and they see me taking a knee, and they’re asking me why I’m doing it and that’s exactly what I wanted to bring from this, to create conversations.”
Nichol hopes that he and his teammates can not only raise awareness around racial injustice and police brutality, but also be an example of how a team can be at once united and different.
“That’s what I want this to turn into, people seeing us unifying, not just through the sport but because we love each other. We are all human beings at the end of the day.”