Images of the College of Coastal Georgia basketball team kneeling during the anthem are getting a lot of reaction online.
Pictures circulating on social media show the entire team and coach taking a knee. It's part of a nationwide movement that gained new life after President Trump used profane language towards NFL players who kneeled during the anthem.
Wednesday night, in front of a hometown crowd in Brunswick, Georgia, the College of Coastal Georgia men's basketball team collectively took a knee during the national anthem. The Mariners were facing off against fellow NAIA school, Brewton-Parker College, from Mount Vernon. Photographs of the protests received plenty of backlash in Southeast Georgia.
First Coast News reached out to head coach Jesse Watkins, who wrote in an e-mail that his players have a right to freedom of speech, that he wished people in the community weren't so quick to judge and that people aren't aware what their student athletes go through on a daily basis.
This is the statement e-mailed from the College of Coastal Georgia: "The College of Coastal Georgia reveres our national anthem and the flag of the United States and believes that Americans should stand as a mark of respect during the anthem. At the same time, we respect the constitutional right of our students to exercise their freedom of speech as protected under the First Amendment. In the midst of this national dialogue, our focus is on fostering civility as people express differing opinions in our community."
"It's kind of a catch-22, it's a double-edged sword," said Matt Driscoll, head coach of the University of North Florida men's basketball team.
Driscoll said he's had conversations with his players and staff about anthem protests, and said so far, none have expressed a desire to do so.
"You go and fight for our freedoms to give us freedom and then when we use our freedoms, sometimes that works against, and it becomes a pull and a push and a push and a pull," Driscoll said.
Driscoll said he respects a players' right to protest and said they have a right to protest however they want, but he adds that there are proper times to protest.
In his opinion, that proper time is not during the anthem, a time he said is meant to honor those who've died for the country.
"Those guys provided us the freedom to make the choice to kneel, so it's kind of hard to go one way or the other," Driscoll said.
A Jacksonville University spokesperson didn't want to comment regarding what they tell players about anthem protests, elaborating that they still haven't figured out their stance on the issue.