By Gianna Diventura
CCC Journalism Program
BLACKWOOD – The controversy surrounding the protests during the national anthem in professional sports has begun to resonate at Camden County College.
Director of Athletics Bill Banks said this about the protests happening in professional sports, such as players kneeling instead of standing for the playing of the national anthem before games: “I feel it is their right to protest in this way, as long as it is in a peaceful and respectful way.”
He said his personal feelings are not a factor in the matter and this is purely about the rights of individuals. This right not only is given to everyone by the First Amendment but also is given to CCC students by the CCC Student Handbook, which cites every student’s right to freedom of self-expression.
Banks confided until recently, directors and coaches never had to address this issue openly. “It was not even a concern until about a week ago … I have not seen anything like this until (former San Francisco 49ers quarterback) Colin Kaepernick did it.”
He noted he had discussed the topic of the controversy in early October at the Region 19 directors meeting.
Banks said it was made clear to the coaches of all CCC sports teams that there can be no repercussions if a player chooses to kneel or otherwise protest peacefully during the national anthem. This notion is supported by the student athlete code of conduct, which states on or off the field, athletes must act with dignity and respect toward the larger college community.
He said he has not seen any issue like this from a student at CCC.
Chip Reitano, the head coach of the women’s basketball and softball teams, said the situation for his teams is not similar to the situation with major sports organizations. “It’s different at our level,” he said. “The beliefs are the same but we don’t have the audience to really send a statement like professional sports players do.”
Reitano stated the department had addressed him about how to handle a potential issue. He expressed his desire to support his players, saying: “If I can in any way help them through their beliefs, thoughts, issues, I want to do that.”
At a recent women’s soccer game and men’s soccer game, the national anthem was not played because of inclement weather. However, several student athletes spoke about their perspectives on the issue.
Layne Olsen, who plays basketball, said she does not really care and has no intentions of protesting. On the other hand, Savannah Bittner, who plays softball, said she views the act of protesting during the national anthem as disrespectful. “I would never think to do that,” Bittner said, admitting she does not entirely understand the protests.