* The ban was probably unnecessary to begin with because, as explained earlier this week, two of the protesting cheerleaders didn’t return to SIUC this semester and the third had already decided to stop taking a knee during the anthem. And legally speaking, it was highly problematic, as explained by Brian Munoz at the Daily Egyptian…
SIU Athletics has rescinded new language in the Student Athlete Code of Conduct that said any displays of activism will not be tolerated and could lead to the individual’s removal from their respective program. […]
“However, some have interpreted the language to suggest that our aim was to restrict the free speech rights of our students – that was never our intent,” [Tom Weber, associate athletic director over communications] said. “We fully support the free expression of ideas and opinions among our students and the entire Saluki family.” […]
“The government can make neutral rules for students to follow and universities can set higher standards of conduct for athletes, cheerleaders and other student leaders,” [William Freivogel, a media law professor at SIU] said. “But in the process, the government can’t discriminate based on the content or viewpoint of speech.”
Freivogel said the university cannot punish a student leader for taking a knee during the anthem if the school is also not prepared to “punish pro-flag, pro-military or Tim Tebow-style religious gestures.”
Gregory Magarian, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said he shared similar sentiments.
“If we’re going to say there’s nothing political about standing for the national anthem then we are saying one of two things – we’re saying it’s meaningless, or we’re saying that we are absolutely forcing a consensus political view on everybody and it has political significance – and you will obey that political significance, or you are out.”
*** UPDATE *** Ed Yohnka, Director of Communications and Public Policy, ACLU of Illinois…
SIU has done the right thing by reversing this ill-conceived policy. Students at a public university should be able to weigh in on matters of public concern without threats of reprisals and discipline. This action represents an opportunity for the University to foster an active dialogue about a range of issues – including the need for police reform in our nation. We hope the University will embrace this moment and create an atmosphere where views can be expressed and exchanged in a thoughtful manner.