FAYETTEVILLE - The National Anthem before the game evoked more conversation than the Arkansas Razorbacks’ women defeating lower division (Division II) Oklahoma Baptist, 79-32 in Thursday night’s exhibition basketball game at Walton Arena.
Following the lead of San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has not been standing for the National Anthem at 49ers games because "I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color,” Razorbacks Jordan Danberry, a sophomore guard from Conway, Briunna Freeman, a sophomore guard from Pelham, Ga., Jailyn Mason, a freshman guard from Mason, Ohio; senior center Tatiyana Smith of Plano, Texas, Kiara Williams, a freshman forward from Little Rock Central; and freshman center Yasmeen Ratliff of Alpharetta, Ga. linked arms and took a knee as the National Anthem was played by the Hogwild Band with vocalist accompaniment before the game.
Kaepernick’s kneeling rather than standing for the National Anthem stemmed from recently publicized incidents of black men shot by white police officers.
Four Razorbacks who met with media postgame followed by Coach Jimmy Dykes said there were individual divisions among team members regarding whether to stand for kneel for Thursday’s National Anthem but unanimous team solidarity on the right for all to express themselves on the issue.
“On behalf of my teammates," Freeman said. “We love being a Lady Razorback and we love our fan base and we didn't mean any disrespect by it. We just feel like a lot of things in society need to change One thing is police brutality; People of color are being attacked and we just want to speak out and make a difference.”
Freeman, with family members in the military, said she discussed the issue with her family.
Keira Swenson, the lone white player available postgame, said she stood for the National Anthem in honor of her cousin in the military and all in the military and police f but asserted, “I completely support my teammates in the movement and everyone else who decides to take a knee during the Anthem. I think what they are doing is a very strong movement and I back them up 100 percent. We all support each other and want to stick together as a team. This is not something that will divide us
Danberry said the team will discuss among themselves whether any will continue kneeling for future National Anthems.
Dykes talked at length with media after the players.
“We as a staff are extremely proud of our young ladies,” Dykes said. “We have had tremendous dialogue as a staff with them over the last couple of weeks and even before that individually. I met with them as a group his week on a couple of occasions. They had very, very strong, well-informed, educated opinions based on their real life experiences, their real life emotions. I am very, very proud of them. They know I have their back 100 percent. Because we do live in a country that is the land of the free and the home the brave.”
Dykes said the players know his own stance on the National Anthem is to stand but that “I respect their rights with what they did tonight. They know we love them as a staff probably more now than two weeks ago because we have seen some beautiful, strong young ladies that can come together for a cause and have completely different stances on things and still be a Razorback at the end of the day and love each other. For that I am very, very proud of them.”
As for the game against an outmatched opponent, Arkansas started slowly, 17-11 in the first quarter, probably in part because of the pregame emotions, but outscored OBU, 50-15 in the second half and outrebounded the Lady Bisons, 55-30.
Senior forward Jessica Jackson of Jacksonville, voted Preseason first-team All-SEC by the SEC coaches, it was announced earlier Thursday by the SEC Office in Birmingham, Ala., and Danberry shared Arkansas scoring honors Thursday scoring 14 points each.
Sophomore guard Malica Monk of North Little Rock scored 13 while Mason scored 10, Freeman, six and Williams, five.
Smith and Ratliff, sidelined by illness,did not play.
Also out with illness freshman Aaliyah Wilson of Muskogee, Okla. and injured junior guard Devin Cosper.
Arkansas next plays Nov. 11 on Elementary School Day at Walton in its official season opener against Sam Houston State.