USC President, Army Veterinarian Caslen Speaks in Protest Against Gamecocks National Anthem | South Carolina

COLOMBIA – They have the right of the First Amendment to do so, and their reactions to it, as they do about most such protests, were mixed. Some praised him, others condemned him.

South Carolina’s women’s basketball team is in a unique position when it comes to social justice issues. Her trainer, Dawn Staley, spoke strongly about racial unrest in the country this year and will coach the United States women’s team in the coming Olympics.

USC also has a school president, Bob Caslen, who has spent most of his life serving in the U.S. Army. He was asked on Tuesday about what he thinks of all but one USC player sitting around for the national anthem, as he did before each game this season.

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“They have an important message. They have an extremely important message, ”said Caslen. “I gave 42 years of my life for their right to do that. It is your constitutional right ”.

Caslen also feels that the message is being overlooked.

“I think they are missing the message because of the means of delivery. You have a polarized nation, a polarized view of it, and the people who need to hear are not listening, ”said Caslen. “So, the people who are listening are the people who already know that. My opinion is, find another way to get the message across. “

The president said he met with the team last week.

“We had a big discussion about it,” he said.

All players, except Elysa Wesolek junior, remained seated during the national anthem before the games. Wesolek, from Charleston, honored his family’s military service.

The coaching staff also stood up, except when Staley knelt beside a player before the USC’s game against NC State. The team released a statement on the team’s Twitter account before the season began.

“Many of us remained seated to illuminate the need for racial equality, social justice and the eradication of systemic racism in our country. One of us chose to honor his family’s military service, ”the statement said. “We know that not everyone will agree with the decisions we make today, but we ask that everyone respect our right to make them.”

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A season ticket holder told the Post and the Courier that he immediately left the arena and would not return when he saw the protest during the first game.

There was a “Boo!” Audible before the NC State game, when USC players sat down and Wolfpack players knelt.

Staley said the team is prepared for praise and reaction and understands each reaction.

“I am proud.) They are the ones who are using their voices and their platform,” she said recently. “We didn’t know what would come out of their display about what was important to them, any more than we knew what would come out of Elysa’s position. , or of us standing, or of not being seated. This is what they wanted to do. They talked about it as a group outside the coaches and we will support them, no matter what they decide to do. “

Staley also responded to several applause and criticisms on social media and clarified an issue. When the Olympics arrive and she is training the US team, she will not kneel to hear the hymn.

Follow David Cloninger on Twitter @DCPandC.