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'Everybody is respectful of each other': 29 Hawkeye football players kneel during national anthem

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — Twenty-nine members of the Iowa football team knelt down during the playing of the national anthem before Saturday's home game against Northwestern, a symbolic gesture that was months in the making.

Players had been discussing whether to stage a demonstration during the anthem since June. Whether standing or kneeling Saturday, all players held hands. There were 26 Black players and three white players who knelt.

"That just shows the growth within our state, within our team, and within this family that we call a team," Iowa defensive tackle Daviyon Nixon, who is Black, said after the game — a 21-20 loss to Northwestern.

Nixon praised his coaches for allowing players the freedom to express themselves on a topic they believe is important.

Hawkeye coach Kirk Ferentz gave players permission for the first time to kneel for "The Star-Spangled Banner" as a demonstration for greater racial justice in America.

Several Iowa Hawkeye players kneel during the national anthem before Saturday's home game against Northwestern. Coach Kirk Ferentz gave his players the permission to stage a demonstration during the anthem for the first time this season.

Ferentz said he changed his mind on demonstrations during the national anthem after a series of meetings with his players over the summer after social-justice demonstrations began sweeping the country in the wake of George Floyd's death while in the custody of Minneapolis police officers.

"Everybody was respectful of each other's opinions, and I'm convinced right now that we'll see a variety of stances taken by our team," Ferentz said. "But I can also tell you that what I've heard from three separate meetings is everybody is respectful of each other. Nobody is judging each other. Nobody is taking roll, any of that kind of stuff. They're acting like a team should. I'm extremely impressed with the way the guys have handled it."

Northwestern's players all stood during the anthem.

Mark Emmert covers the Iowa Hawkeyes for the Register. Reach him at memmert@registermedia.com or 319-339-7367. Follow him on Twitter at @MarkEmmert.