Members of the Big Red Marching Band became the latest group to join in on the national anthem protests Saturday afternoon before Cornell football’s home opening 21-7 loss to Colgate.
While the band still played the anthem — as it does before each home game — approximately 30 members came together on the sideline to sit out and take a knee. Various other attendees of the game, including a group of fans and several cheerleaders, also elected not to stand for the anthem.
As per tradition for games at Schoellkopf Field, both teams remained in their locker rooms until after the anthem.
According to saxophone player Kevin Linsey ’18, who is a columnist for The Sun sports department, select members of the group took separate time away from practice to discuss the possibility of a demonstration.
In addition to Colin Kaepernick, the ex-San Francisco 49ers quarterback who first knelt last season to, as he said, protest racial injustice and police brutality, the group who took part in Saturday’s kneel was inspired by Kyra Butler ’20. Butler took a knee during the anthem at last week’s game at Yale, drawing the attention of her bandmates who wanted to take part as well.
“Word got around and other people saw it as an option too,” Butler said. “Since it got big enough, we talked about it at the band’s exec meeting.”
After making sure Cornell Athletics was on board — which Butler said it was — the band welcomed anyone who wanted to take a knee on the sideline to do so.
“We just wanted to make sure individuals had a chance to express what they wanted to express,” Linsey said.
“We wanted to impress upon everyone that if you wanted to do it you could … and we were going to support everyone no matter what,” said the band’s head manager Kathleen Won ’19.
That being said, the band had a job to do in playing the anthem, and if everyone wanted to kneel, doing so would have been difficult.
“We’re kind of in a tough spot because that’s our job, and people expect us to do our job,” Linsey said.
But given the diverse set of opinions in the group, having enough people to play was not an issue, and the anthem was played seemingly without any musical complications.
Earlier this week, members of the Cornell faculty and student body came together on the Arts Quad for a collective “kneel’’. Among students and faculty, members of the football team took part as well. Head coach David Archer ’05 was also present.
Kaepernick initially knelt during the national anthem to protest the racial injustice he felt was plaguing the nation. The controversial action has spread throughout the NFL, particularly this past Sunday, after President Donald Trump called for the firing of any player who knelt during the national anthe.
Butler and other bandmates still wanted to show their solidarity and promote the message of the ongoing demonstrations.
“It’s about the systemic racism in the country and police brutality against the black and brown community and how it’s handled in the justice system,” Butler said of the protests. “So we’re taking a knee to protest that and using the anthem as a vehicle to get the message out.”
“Obviously this is a really big thing that’s going on right now,” Won added, “and it’s important to take a stand.”