In response to several protests on campus and a nearly 24-hour kneeling protest from Public Health student Dana Greene last Monday, Information student Robert Burgess penned an email to the Health Informatics Student Organization — alongside the University’s School of Information listserv — voicing his concerns about the act of sitting during the national anthem at the football game Saturday. After hearing word of Greene’s protest to happen Saturday, Burgess provided his opinions about the disrespect he says this would demonstrate.

Sitting or kneeling at football games has become more of a controversy nationwide following the protest of Colin Kaepernick, the NFL player who knelt and ultimately lost his job in the league because of it.

Similarly, Greene knelt at the Diag last week to protest several incidents of racism on campus — early September, students in West Quad found racist writing on their dorm and racist writing was found on a mural in downtown Ann Arbor; these incidents are not isolated, as racist posters have been a topic on discussion on campus for years and within the past week.

In the email statement from Burgess, he noted the recent competition against Air Force in football — where paratroopers landed and laid an American flag across the Big House’s field — and a necessity to respect armed forces

“How can we call ourselves authentic while we cheer for this event, but sit for our national anthem,” Burgess posited. “I understand what time the anthem was wrote in, I even know the second verse ( we don’t sing ) contains slurs, but that’s not what it represents. It was written during a time people were influenced by social precedence, just as is happening by sitting.”

Burgess already considers University a diverse and prestigious university that prides itself on promoting diversity.

“By sitting during the national anthem, that only gives reason to question the authenticity of the university as a whole,” Burgess wrote. “YOU represent the university. YOU are gifted people being here, you should not be influenced by a fad the NFL brought to light.” 

Ultimately, Burgess stated he would not disrespect the reason he has freedom.

“Corruption and injustice are very real, but we are liberated far more than we can perceive if we grew up here,” Burgess wrote. “Please stand with pride. Maybe make a sign that says I’m standing for those that fought, even if you believe they were manipulated in doing so… But, please stand. Display your authenticity, maturity, and “leader and best” U-M mentality.”


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