Few football players from tiny Millikin University in Decatur, Ill., ever make national news. But one player on the 99-man roster from this Division III NCAA program clearly stood out from the rest of his team last Saturday.
Offensive lineman Connor Brewer of Rochester, Ill., was the lone Millikin player who decided to remain on the sidelines during the national anthem prior to its Oct. 15 home game against Augustana College. After the playing of The Star-Spangled Banner, Brewer ran back to the locker room and joined the rest of his team, who were staging a protest.
Brewer later explained to Millikin president Patrick White why he felt compelled to stand for the anthem.
“Rather than have our message be misunderstood or misconstrued, we are united in our decision to stay in the locker room until kickoff, during which time we will engage in a moment of reflection to personally recognize the sacrifice of so many and renew our commitment to living up to those most important words: ‘With liberty and justice for all,’” the team wrote in a statement that was published in the Decatur Herald-Review.
Some Millikin fans have said they will no longer attend the games and believe the university has made a terrible decision by condoning this behavior.
“I’m very supportive of Millikin sports programs, I’m very supportive of the college as a whole, I’ve lived here my whole life, however in this instance, I believe they have dropped the ball.” said Jewell Young, a Decatur resident. “If some don’t agree with the national anthem, then they should stay in the locker room and come out when it begins. I don’t think the whole team should have to stay in because I don’t think the whole team feels that way.”
Other members of the community stated they were fine with it as long as the whole team didn’t feel forced to participate in the protests.
“Maybe the guys who don’t want to stand for the national anthem, black or white, can stay in and let the rest of the guys come out and do it, they should let the rest of the guys that want to come out, come out.” said Steve Little, parent of a Millikin student.
In response to Brewer’s decision to stand, the university released a statement. Millikin University’s Media Coordinator Dane Lisser wrote:
“The national anthem is an opportunity to reflect on the liberty and freedom we hold sacred and work to foster. Millikin University will continue to celebrate that tradition at every one of our games. True to our mission to prepare students for democratic citizenship in a global environment, we respect the rights and beliefs of our students, faculty, and community to exercise their civil liberties, in ways consistent with their conscience, while the national anthem is played. With that in mind, when the Big Blue take the field this weekend, we will continue to support the individual expressions of those liberties and freedoms.”