ALBANY — They saw what happened earlier this month at the U.S. Capitol, and decided to take a knee in response.
That’s how UAlbany men’s basketball players Jarvis Doles and Jamel Horton described Saturday the decision of seven of the team’s players — all of the Great Danes’ Black scholarship players — to take a knee during the pre-game playing of the national anthem as a form of social protest.
“We have to do our small part and hopefully inspire somebody else to do their part,” Doles said during a teleconference following Saturday’s 83-75 America East Conference win for the Great Danes against NJIT.
Saturday’s game was the first at SEFCU Arena in which any members of head coach Will Brown’s program took a knee during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner” this season. Doles, Horton and others, though, first took a knee during the national anthem prior to the team’s Jan. 9 game at Saint Joseph’s in Philadelphia, played three days following a deadly riot by supporters of President Donald J. Trump at the U.S. Capitol.
Doles, who is from Baltimore and participated in protests last year following the killing of George Floyd in May that precipitated a summer of social-justice rallies, said what happened at the U.S. Capitol “hit home” and was “absurd” to watch unfold.
“Seeing that was heart-breaking. For me, that’s just not what I know America to be,” Doles said. “That’s not what I’ve grown up to know America to be, and it’s sad to see because, at the end of the day, it’s not left wing vs. right wing. We’re Americans at the end of the day, and we want what’s best for our country — and, to see that, I felt like it was selfish on the part of those people to do that.”
“We wanted to show how we feel about it,” Horton said.
UAlbany — which has a “Black Lives Matter” patch on its uniforms this season, and multiple banners with an “End Racism” message on them in its home arena — was far from the first basketball program to have players take a knee during the playing of the national anthem this season.
Brown said he supported each of his players in their respective decision to stand or take a knee during the national anthem.
“I think every individual in our program — players, coaches — they have the right to do what they want to do, what they’re comfortable with, what they believe in,” Brown said. “My thing, all along, has been just to handle yourself the right way and my job is to support the student-athletes and the coaches in my program. It’s not my job to tell them to stand, to kneel. They need to do what they’re comfortable with, what they believe in — and I’m going to support my players.”
UAlbany junior Antonio Rizzuto stood during “The Star-Spangled Banner.” He said he respected those who took a knee.
“Everybody respects everybody,” Rizzuto said of the Great Danes’ locker room. “Whatever people want to do, I respect it. I support them.”
Doles said he felt supported, and said a basketball team is a positive example for how people with different opinions can come together.
“I think basketball allows for that because of the camaraderie and the way that we can all come together,” Doles said. “There’s no agendas, there’s no egos, there’s no hate. There’s all love, and we have to work together. We’re forced to work together. So I think basketball and the locker room is a great example for how America should come together.”
Doles said he plans to continue taking a knee before each game for the foreseeable future, and doesn’t expect to be alone in doing that.
“Being a Black man is not a one-day thing,” Doles said. “It’s an everyday thing.”