Kent State men’s basketball, fans stand in solidarity during national anthem

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Kent State President Beverly Warren stands with the men’s basketball team and members of the audience during the national anthem as a statement of unity in the face of political turmoil on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 2016.

Nick Buzzelli

Rob Senderoff on national anthem display of unity from KentWired.com on Vimeo.

Shortly before tipoff of Kent State’s home opener against Mississippi Valley State University Wednesday night, members of the basketball team walked into the stands of the M.A.C. Center in search of fans of different races to bring onto the court for the playing of the “Star Spangled Banner.”

It’s not something that had been done previously at Kent State. But because of the political and social turmoil in the country, senior Deon Edwin approached head coach Rob Senderoff prior to the start of the season with the idea.

“We wanted to make a statement and let everyone know that we’re aware of all the things that are going on in our country and that we wanted to make a stand for unity,” sophomore Jalen Avery said. “That was basically our symbol that we wanted to show unity and treating everybody as one.”

Senderoff, who said the idea was completely player-driven, viewed this as a way for his team to help bring unity to campus.

“There’s a lot of people that are protesting the national anthem or protesting, whether it’s the election or its race relations here in the country. And you see that nationally,” he said. “I think our guys wanted to make a statement, and the statement that I think our players made was a tremendously positive one that — hopefully — is something everybody can recognize.”

Kent State Athletic director Joel Nielsen agreed.

“This is a great example of Kent State student-athletes stepping up as leaders in our diverse community,” Nielsen, who is in his seventh year at Kent State, said in a press release. “We encourage dialogue between coaches and student-athletes when it comes to these challenging issues. We will continue to foster an open environment for student-athletes of all beliefs, backgrounds and communities.”

Team captain and senior Jimmy Hall said standing in solidarity with a diverse group of fans is something that the program plans to do prior to every home game.

“It’s about togetherness at the end of the day,” he said. “We’re one race.”

Nick Buzzelli is a sports reporter, contact him at [email protected]