Men's Basketball Kneeling Statement

Photo by Reed Schick

Photo by Reed Schick

The Covenant Basketball Program’s Statement on Kneeling

What Compels Us To Kneel?

During the 2016-2017 season, some of the mens and womens basketball players will be kneeling during the national anthem before games. This kneeling is being done in an effort to raise conversations surrounding the inequality of treatment that minorities, African-Americans in particular, receive within the systems that are in place within the United States of America. Because they are designed by the majority, these systems, sometimes unconsciously, favor that majority. The ultimate goal of this act of protest is to raise awareness concerning these inequities within the culture, and to acknowledge that something is not right with the current state of affairs. The ultimate hope would be that such realization would contribute to directed actions that would bring about a positive change.  

We are kneeling to express empathy with the suffering of our brothers and sisters in Christ, brothers and sisters who are victims of injustices that are sometimes overt, but often are hidden in policies and practices in this country.  We believe that this act of solidarity is one concrete way for us to obey Jesus’ command to us to, “love your neighbor as yourself,” (Mark 12:31). We kneel to show our support for brothers and sisters who have been hurt unfairly by prevailing practices.

Why Are We On One Knee?

The posture of kneeling has been chosen with great care. It is not inherited as a hollow reproduction of a hip new trend that resonates within social media and is perpetuated solely by the controversial figure of Colin Kaepernick. Instead it has been received as the  posture appropriate for prayer and supplication. It was prominent during the Civil Rights Movement as an indication of dependence on God. The brave individuals that took it upon themselves to make a stand for integrated parks, libraries, and lunch-counters also made a valiant effort to desegregate the churches in the south. A group of brave blacks, and sympathetic whites, would go to prominent churches and kneel during the services.

This posture is not ‘trendy,’ it is not ‘chic,’ and it not something adopted without considerate forethought or a valid historical basis. We kneel because we see grave injustices in the way that they saw grave injustices and hope to act in a fashion that honors and imitates their call for practical righteousness.

What About Those Who Are Standing?

As an act of solidarity, those who find themselves standing next to kneeling teammates during the anthem will lay their hand upon them. This posture expresses that, though they are not comfortable taking a knee beside their teammates—and might even disagree with the ideas that are being presented—the bond that unites us, as teammates and as brothers/sisters in Christ, is more fundamental than a temporary disagreement and the only solid starting point for pursuing eventual agreement. This unity is crucial to what we are doing and we see it as a model that we are striving for in the larger Covenant community and in the public.

What About the Troops?

We acknowledge that our kneeling may cause distress to some individuals who look to the flag and think of their own time and life, or the time and lives of their loved ones, which have been sacrificed to their flag and country. We want to make it abundantly clear that although our actions have been perceived as disrespectful or unpatriotic, we have the utmost respect for the people who have fought for this country in the past, for those that fight for our country in the present, and for those that will continue to fight for the freedoms we will receive in the future. We consider what we are doing as a domestic extension of what they have done on the battlefield. There is an obvious debt that we owe them: their sacrifice enables us to be able to engage in a peaceful protest. For that we are very thankful.

Standing and hailing the flag with a hand over the heart, or a salute, is a custom that shows gratitude for the many freedoms that have been given to us because of the sacrifice of American men and women in uniform. Taking a knee is exercising one of those many freedoms, the freedom of speech, and is designed to call into question the concept of freedom compared with the reality observed in our country. It stands for accountability and change, not disrespect.

We understand that our actions may be felt as hurtful by some people; however, we ask that these people would sincerely consider our actual motives and concerns , in the hope that they will gain empathy for the plight of disenfranchised African-Americans in this country. It is not our purpose to cause pain or create discord, and we hear the question, “isn’t there another way?” as a valid one.

There might be a better way to express these grievances; however, we also believe that there must be a better way to navigate this racial rift in America. Ultimately, the problems that concern us are manifestations of sin, and we acknowledge that, even in our best efforts, we are also affected by sin.Our protest is not infallible; we know we are not perfectly righteous in everything we do, and we ask for patience, prayer, and godly advice from brothers and sisters who disagree with us . . . We are genuinely sorry for any pain we cause, but we risk causing pain because we cannot overlook the pain experienced by the black community in America. In the same way that we weep with those who weep for their loved ones lost in combat, we feel called to weep with those who have suffered because of racial injustice (see Romans 12:15). We ask those who disagree with us at least to consider weeping with us, in the hope that we will all rejoice as God brings about solutions to these problems.

What Are We NOT Doing?

  • We are not supporting the organized movement Black Lives Matter. We agree with the idea expressed in the name but we disagree with some of the particular positions of the movement, which come into direct conflict with our own Christian beliefs.

  • We are not protesting the election. President Elect Donald Trump is our president, though we may not all agree with him, or many of his ideas, this is not the conversation we wish to engage in.

  • We are not directing our protest towards the armed forces.

What Next, How Will This Have Feet?

A primary concern is, one that we consider to be valid, how will this protest be actualized? How will the same men and women that are on one knee on the hardwood give their actions feet in the community? This is something that we see as an issue and are doing our best to address.

At Covenant College there already is a Diversity Program in place. It is a source of scholarship for students that bring diverse backgrounds onto Lookout Mountain to enrich the learning environment and the social interactions that take place. It also functions as a club and is a place for fellowship among those that would be considered ‘other’ given the demographics on campus. Underneath the umbrella of the Diversity Program an organization called The McRae-Zellner Project has been constructed. The McRae-Zellner Project is an organization of black collegians, which is named after the first African-American man and woman to graduate from Covenant College, whose mission is to raise cultural awareness for African-American issues and history throughout campus and among the student body, provide a safe place for positive conversation, and spread God's love through community service. By engaging in community service with a group of minorities the hope would be that the members of the minority would reach out to the majority culture as an example of gospel love.

Because some of the most primary concerns in this protest are centered around racial injustices that exist at a systemic level, the goal of this group will be to find reconciliation within those systems. One of the places we see injustices in America is in the school system, and with the proper funding, the McRae-Zellner Project hopes to go into underprivileged schools and provide tutoring services which will provide educational resources that those schools would otherwise not have.

We believe that having an organization of black collegians which gives back to the communities in their area will only leave a positive impact, not only those who are directly affected, but to the ones who are on the outside looking at the student's’ actions. This organization’s primary goal is to actualize the awareness for inequality that is voiced on the court and channel it into the community.

What Can You Do?

Another, and perhaps the most powerful, avenue that we hope to bring about change outside of the protest is through the power of prayer. If this on-court act does nothing else but raise awareness, generate conversation, and cultivate prayer within the church for racial harmony within the states then it would be considered a success. The synthesis of our desire for thoughtful prayer, and the posture of our protest, shows that we believe the integration of the two to be incredibly important. We believe both in the power of protest and in the magnificent power of prayer.

Consider this passage from Psalm 107:

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,

   and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He made the storm be still,

   and the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,

   and he brought them to their desired haven.

This passage speaks to the power of prayer, a power that will deliver us to our “desired haven,” a haven that sees unity and love uniting people of every color. We pray that the gospel that Paul describes in Galatians 3:26-29, a gospel that unites Jews and Greeks, would be worked out in the States.

Let that prayer be feet to our knees.