* Daily Egyptian, October 4, 2017…
While a crowd of 9,112 fans removed their hats and stood at attention for the National Anthem prior to last Saturday’s SIU vs. UNI showdown in Saluki Stadium, three Saluki cheerleaders used the public stage to take a knee in protest.
Sophomore cheerleaders Czarina Tinker, Ariahn Hunt and Alaysia Brandy were unsure of how the rest of the squad would react to their intent to kneel during the anthem, so they decided not to share their plans. […]
“It’s not a protest against the flag. It’s not a protest against Donald Trump,” the Chicago native said. “It was a protest for our civil rights that we are still fighting for, that we have been fighting for, for hundreds of years and we’re not getting any justice.”
Thereafter, the university did whatever it could to prevent the DE photographers from taking pictures of the cheerleaders, who were stationed in a tunnel during the anthem. All three cheerleaders are African-Americans.
* The cheerleaders were physically threatened…
Brandy, who is studying biological sciences and is also from Chicago, agreed that while some people have expressed support, many of the responses have been unsettling.
“These people know our faces and names now. And we’re getting death threats and sexual assault threats, and being called the N-word so many times,” Brandy said.
* This January…
The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Carbondale honored three SIU cheerleaders at the 36th Annual MLK Breakfast.
At the breakfast three sophomore cheerleaders Ariahn Hunt, Alaysia Brandy and Czarina Tinker were recognized for kneeling during the national anthem at the athletic events in order to protest against racial oppression. […]
Dr. Linda Flowers, NAACP Carbondale Branch president, said “They are college students whose courage transcends cheerleading. They have risked their safety, dare I say their cheerleading careers, to protest violence and injustices to African Americans.” […]
“The three young ladies were recognized for their courage in standing up for what they believe in,” [Vice Chancellor Lori Stettler] said. “That is foundational to everything we believe in as a society and as an institution.”
Stettler apparently wasn’t on the same page as campus leadership, however.
* The campus has a new policy…
SIU Athletics administration has also added new language to the Code of Conduct policy that states any displays of activism will not be tolerated and could lead to the individual’s removal from their respective program.
“It is a privilege and not a right to be a student-athlete, cheerleader or spirit member at Southern Illinois University,” according to the addition provided by Liz Jarnigan, SIU Athletics senior woman administrator.
“Members of the department including student athletes cheerleaders and spirit members must remain neutral on any issue political in nature when wearing SIU official uniforms and when competing/performing in official department of athletics events and activities,” according to the addition provided to the Daily Egyptian. “Any display (verbal or non-verbal) of activism (either for or against) a political issue will not be tolerated and may result in dismissal from the program.” […]
“We have this policy because we’re wanting to put forward a message of unity and by taking sides or offending one side or the other… that’s not what we believe [is our] purpose,” Jarnigan said.
Brandy said she will no longer be taking a knee during the anthem and her decision to do so was made before the changes from the administration.
Two of the three women are not returning to SIUC this fall.
*** UPDATE *** Ed Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy, ACLU of Illinois…
Southern Illinois University’s new policy suggesting that players or cheerleaders could be removed from their respective program for peaceful ‘displays of activism’ falls short of the critical responsibility of a public university to honor and protect free speech rights for their students. It is more troubling that the policy specifically suggests that such displays will not be tolerated on ‘a political issue.’
A central purpose for any public university is to engage students and the community in the issues of our time. Schools should not threaten students – or hide them away – because they engage in protests that some in the community may not agree with. SIU administrators should act immediately to reverse these new restrictive policies and welcome a full, vocal debate on all issues on the campus.