It’s a stroke of good luck for the college athletics industrial complex that there’s no need to worry about a national anthem controversy blossoming out of its showcase college football weekend beginning Thursday.
Even as the NFL sees more and more players following the lead of Colin Kaepernick to protest racial inequality and police violence, even as NBA stars become bolder and louder advocates for social justice, there’s no point in asking what would happen if players from Alabama and Florida State wanted to kneel during the Star-Spangled Banner on Saturday at a stadium erected just a couple miles from where Martin Luther King Jr. was born. Unlike the NFL, college football teams are in their locker rooms during the anthem, saving the likes of Nick Saban and Dabo Swinney from a backlash in the deep red states where college football means the most and any form of player protest isn’t likely to be well received.
But in the last year since Kaepernick’s protest was first noticed, momentum for high-profile black athletes to become activists has only grown. And it’s just a matter of time before it filters down to college sports, potentially bringing light to an array of issues from racial inequality to campus policing to college athlete compensation.