Defiance College defends team's anthem absence

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DEFIANCE, Ohio (13abc Action News) - The conference the football team at Defiance College plays in requires teams to be on the field during the playing of the national anthem.

For nine games this season, the Defiance College team was on the field. But for the 10th game they sat in the locker room.

It was Saturday, Veterans Day, and the Defiance College football team isn't on the field for the national anthem.

Bluffton players stood there, but not the home team.

Lisa Marsalek, Vice President for Enrollment Management at Defiance College says, senior day ceremonies on the field ran long... and the coach took players inside. "They need the time to be in the locker room to get ready to come out so that was not a protest on their part," she said.

But before every other game this year, more than a dozen players did protest by taking a knee during the anthem.

Cameron Elder is one of those players. The cornerback says, "It's only about police brutality and racial equality."

Elder says, throughout the season, players have peacefully protested social injustice to open a discussion.

Elder says, "If you want to see and fix a problem than you have to talk about it and begin somewhere with it."

But this did happen on Veterans Day and many feel the national anthem is the one time when all Americans should stand together.

Bob Kroeger says, "If they got social issues, take them to the source, the source is not the flag."

Kroeger is a veteran who shot video of what he calls the hidden protest, Saturday.

Weeks before had urged the coach and college administrators to stop players from kneeling.

He says Saturday some players did not want to be with the team.

Kroeger says, "I've heard from a lot of parents that their youngsters wanted to be out on the field to honor the flag and the veterans. They would not let them out."

But the controversy has inspired creation of a players group... which is now talking to community leaders and police and campus veterans about important issues... and working on resolving problems.

Elder says, "Without this national anthem, we wouldn't be having this conversation today."

Cameron and the other football players who took a knew during the season are proud of what they've done in the form of social protest. But they hope they don't have to do it next year because they say that will mean we've made progress with regard to social justice

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