LINCOLN, Neb. — Nebraska coach Mike Riley said he expects Michael Rose-Ivey to represent himself well when he meets next week with Gov. Pete Ricketts, who criticized Rose-Ivey and two other football players for kneeling during the national anthem last weekend.
As Riley came off the practice field Wednesday night, he said it was “awesome” that the governor had agreed to sit down with the senior linebacker.
“Let’s get the conversation started,” Riley said, smiling. “Michael will do great.”
Rose-Ivey, Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal each took a knee during the anthem before the game at Northwestern to protest police brutality and racial injustice. After Ricketts said on his weekly radio show Monday that the players’ anthem protest was “disgraceful” and “disrespectful,” Rose-Ivey tweeted at the governor requesting a meeting. Ricketts tweeted back Tuesday night that he would arrange a meeting as soon as possible.
A day for the meeting is still to be determined. Rose-Ivey requested that it be next week so it wouldn’t interfere with football game preparation. The Cornhuskers don’t have a game on Oct. 8.
It’s unclear exactly what the governor and Rose-Ivey will discuss. Rose-Ivey was not available to the media on Wednesday, and Ricketts spokesman Taylor Gage said he didn’t expect the governor to comment on the meeting until a firm date is set.
Also Wednesday, university president Hank Bounds and chancellor Ronnie Green emailed students, faculty and staff to emphasize their support for the players’ exercise of their First Amendment rights in a peaceful demonstration.
Rose-Ivey has said he and his family had received threatening and racially motivated comments on social media in response to their protest.
“I am saddened that the peaceful — and by their intent respectful and prayer-centered — actions of our students resulted in threats from a few individuals in public forums,” Green wrote.
Green added, “While I fully recognize and appreciate that there are many who have strongly held views that this demonstration could have been achieved in a manner that did not conflate with the observance and allegiance to our national anthem, the fact remains that their personal choice to speak in this way is a protected right that we all are afforded by the Constitution.”
The anthem protest has drawn a gamut of reaction statewide. The players have said they were heartened by the number of supportive comments they received and appreciate the backing from university and athletic department leaders as well as Riley.
But in addition to the criticism from Ricketts, they were accused of using poor judgment by Board of Regents members Hal Daub of Omaha and Jim Pillen of Columbus. Pillen played defensive back at Nebraska from 1976-78.
In interviews with The Associated Press, neither Daub nor Pillen suggested disciplinary action should be taken against the three players. Daub disputed a Lincoln Journal Star report in which the newspaper quoted him as saying Rose-Ivey, Barry and Neal should be kicked off the team.
American Civil Liberties Union of Nebraska executive director Danielle Conrad praised the three players for expressing their views and said the ACLU also defends the right of people to disagree with the players’ protest.
But she said “it’s shocking that government leaders would assert government sanctions should be imposed to discipline these student athletes for their expression on critical racial justice issues.”
During the team’s media availability on Monday, Rose-Ivey read a statement explaining the reasons why he, Barry and Neal joined San Francisco 49ers backup quarterback Colin Kaepernick and other professional and amateur athletes who have kneeled or otherwise protested what they feel is unfair treatment of blacks in the United States.
Ricketts, responding to a caller on his weekly radio show on Monday, said: “Generations of men and women have died to give them that right to protest. I think the way they chose to protest was disgraceful and disrespectful.”
AP college football website: http://collegefootball.ap.org