Kent State basketball player Deon Edwin was well-aware of the controversy that Colin Kaepernick sparked in August, when he refused to stand for the national anthem and later began taking a knee. Some people praised Kaepernick for protesting, while others criticized him.
Edwin had mixed feelings.
“I like the stand, but obviously it could have been done a different way,” Edwin said on CBS Sports Radio’s Tiki and Tierney. “I know friends whose families serve. I don’t want to disrespect them. I know they’re going to feel some type of way if I take a knee, so I was just kind of brainstorming. I was like, ‘You know what? If I can’t do this on my own, what can I do to get my whole team in it?’”
That’s when Edwin got the idea. Before Kent State’s home-opener against Mississippi Valley State on Wednesday, Edwin and his teammates entered the stands and asked a fan of the opposite race to join them on the court for the national anthem as a sign of solidarity and racial unity.
“Since all this is about being a different race, we could just go in the crowd and get a (member of the opposite race) and then just come together as one instead of everybody just trying to stand out for one race instead of just the human race,” Edwin explained.
Edwin approached one of his female friends, who initially thought something was wrong. Then she asked if she would have to sing.
“I was like, ‘No, we’re just going to stand here together all as one,’” Edwin said. “I could see on everybody’s face the surprise, like, wow, this was a real good idea. It really made me warm inside – you know that warm feeling inside. I was also proud of myself and my teammates for going out there with me. Without them, this wouldn’t have been possible.”
Edwin, who scored 11 points in a 93-63 win over Mississippi Valley State, said the reaction over the last couple of days has been overwhelming positive.
“Everybody loves it,” he said. “There’s so much bad stuff going around right now. We just need to have peace and just be kind to each other. It was just good vibes the whole time. Our coach got emails from alumni. He hung it up in our locker room so we got to read it. He was so proud because Kent State’s got a little history. But for Kent State to be on the news for something great like this, they’re really proud about it.”
Edwin, 24, is a 6-3 senior guard from the Virgin Islands. He said that he and his teammates sometimes have disagreements about current events but that the locker room stays strong regardless.
“At the end of the day, we stick together,” he said. “If we have a big conflict, we’ll call a meeting, have the coaches come in and we actually talk about it instead of everybody just blowing up. It’s not too bad because at the end of the day, we all look at it like we shouldn’t let this outside thing mess up what we got going on right now. We’re here to play basketball and get a degree.”
Edwin said that Kent State (2-0) will continue its anthem act of unity for every home game.
“Everybody was kind of nervous, but we went out and did it,” he said. “That was it. We already did what we had to do (for) our first home game. That’s something we’re going to do every home game. We’re just going to focus on basketball now. If (anybody doesn’t) like what we did, oh well. We’re standing for something we think is right.”