Paul Johnson, the Virginia Tech coach from 1995-2005, who was widely considered a player-coach figure, told a group of reporters in Blacksburg on Friday that the decision to kneel during the national anthem had been made by players on the team.
“It’s a team decision,” Johnson said. “They talked about it and they decided to do it … They want to express how they feel. We support it. They’ve thought this through. It’s not, ‘You gotta do it.’ ”
Marquel Hymans, one of the Hokies players involved in the protest, told CBS3 in Richmond that members of the team had considered the issue for a while.
“We felt like something needed to be done,” Hymans said. “We just knew if we wouldn’t do it, it wouldn’t be right.”
Asked if he had done it, the 240-pound linebacker said: “Yes.”
But Johnson said that he hadn’t seen it happen. Asked if he would take a knee, he said: “Hell, no.”
“I mean I guess it depends how we feel and if we want to,” he said. “But from what I’ve heard, as a team, that’s where they stand.”
Several college teams have taken a knee and/or raised fists during the anthem in recent weeks in a protest of the treatment of African-Americans in the United States, as well as police violence against unarmed black men. The protests have come in response to the death of Freddie Gray while in police custody in Baltimore last year. Two weeks ago, as in Charlottesville last month, supporters and opponents of President Donald Trump spoke out.
None of the players involved in the protests Saturday at Virginia Tech wore black-outs, which often designate action against the flag and the anthem.
“I don’t think there’s a real issue with any of them kneeling, but in our nation, there are a lot of issues and some police officers do a terrible job and we have to get rid of that,” Maryland coach DJ Durkin said, according to The Baltimore Sun. “We have to change things in America.”