FAYETTEVILLE — Arkansas’ womens’ basketball team opened their season to play against Oklahoma Baptist Thursday night to a small crowd.
But the actions of several players have brought a spotlight to the game that transcended the walls of Bud Walton Arena and the few people that had gathered in it.
As the National Anthem played, approximately six players took a knee until the music concluded.
The form of protest that was started by San Francisco 49er Colin Kapernick as a statement to promote equality has spread to a number of teams and venues, but has been the first of it’s kind at an Arkansas sporting event.
Select members of the Razorback women’s basketball kneeled during the national anthem ahead of tonight’s exhibition game pic.twitter.com/lYQZFD36RX
— Razorback Nation (@RazNation) November 4, 2016
“Recently you all know that there’s been a lot of killings from police officers of African-Americans and other minorities,” sophomore Jessica Danberry of Conway told reporters after the game. “Me and my teammates took a knee today during the national anthem to speak for those who are oppressed. As Razorback student-athletes we have a platform to do that.”
Players addressing the media said the move was discussed as a team prior to the game.
“We are extremely proud of our young ladies,” said coach Jimmy Dykes in his postgame press conference. “They have strong, well-educated opinions, based on their real life experiences.”
Dykes said he was not bothered by their actions.
“I have their back, because we live in the land of the free and the home of the brave,” said Dykes. “They know where I stand and it is very different than some of my beliefs. I know a lot of people are disappointed in me, but my players aren’t.”
On the other side of the issue, sophomore forward Kieryn Swenson said she chose to remain standing in support of a military family that lost a member last year.
She told reporters that she did not feel the issue would divide the team.
“In this country, we value everyone’s right to voice their opinions and views. University campuses are places of learning and thus places where differences of opinion and varying perspectives are recognized. We respect the rights of our student-athletes and all individuals to express themselves on important issues in our nation.” said athletics director Jeff Long. ” We will continue to encourage our student-athletes to engage in constructive conversations with their peers, coaches, support staff and administrators to raise awareness of varying backgrounds and life experiences and to develop understanding among conflicting points of view.”
In the game, Danberry led all scorers with 14 points each. Malica Monk (13 points) and Jailyn Mason (10 points) also finished in doubles figures. Defensively, Arkansas held OBU to just 24.5 percent shooting for the game.
The Razorbacks used a 16-0 run over 9:51 that spanned parts of the first and second quarter to turn an 11-10 deficit into a 26-11 lead and would not trail the rest of the way. They also had an 18-0 run in the second half to stretch out their lead.
Arkansas opens the 2016-17 regular season against Sam Houston State on Friday, Nov. 11, at 10:30 a.m. in Bud Walton Arena.