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This is a contributing entry for African American Student Experiences at the University of Arkansas and only appears as part of that tour.Learn More.
Our final entry takes us alllll the way down the Hill and into student athletics with biomedical engineering major Smit Patel. Being a student is hard. However, Arkansas women basketball players kneeling show how being a student-athlete is harder. Every student-athlete that plays and has played at Barnhill Arena should be respected regardless of their color, gender, and background. They are all Razorbacks--just like the entire University of Arkansas community.

Arkansas women's basketball players kneel to bring awareness

Arkansas, Women Razorbacks, Kneeling, BAD Times, Protest, National Anthem, Veterans

Bud Walton Arena Outside

Building, Bud Walton Arena, Basketball

Arkansas' Martin Terry brings the ball downcourt against Mario Brown of Tex-as A&M in a Southwest Conference clash last Saturday. Terry's 46-point effort, including a record 22 of 24 free throws, helped the Razorba

Sports, basketball, Razorbacks

Six Arkansas women's basketball players knelt during the singing of the national anthem prior to the Razorbacks' exhibition game against Oklahoma Baptist.

Kneeling, protest, women basketball

Some 40 years ago in 1970s, Black Americans for Democracy (B.A.D), a student activism group, had an intramural basketball team that got treated badly. It was not because they were protesting but because they were asking for fair treatment in intramural basketball. The administration and the society at the time was not supportive and exaggerated some of the pains these Black student players felt. This quote from the April 6, 1973 BAD Times paper sums it up: “From overcoming the prejudices of some people, other variables contributed not only to loss, but to other games and sports. It is apparent that B.A.D has lacked full cooperation from the intramural department that it deserves and is most worthy of. Although it was understood that a member of each team would be notified prior to each game during the playoffs, this act was not carried out sufficiently. This, in turn, hampered the strategy or game plan in that the team didn't know how to prepare for a particular opponent due to the fact that they didn't know who was going to be the opposing team until game time.”

The administration in 2016 was a completely and drastically different one. The chancellor, the Vice Chancellor for Athletics Affairs and Student Affairs, and many other people of the UofA came out in support of the 6 women basketball players who kneeled. It was a somber Thursday on November 3rd 2016, in Fayetteville, AR. The Arkansas women's basketball team were playing against Oklahoma Baptist at the Bud Walton Arena. They were kneeling to bring attention to unjust treatment of Black Americans by the police. Two hours before the game Dr. Charles Robinson, the University of Arkansas's current Provost and then the Vice Chancellor of Student Affairs, got a call informing him that certain members of the women's basketball team have decided to kneel. Dr. Robinson and the Athletic Department were in conversation about sports players kneeling for months now. Dr. Robinson, a historian by training, was observing the national trends after Colin Kaepernick had first kneeled to bring attention to the police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans in America. Due to his academic background, he knew that students tend to copy national movements. Therefore, he had told the Athletic Department and the Vice Chancellor for Athletic Affairs in the university's executive meetings to talk to the students if they wanted to kneel or if they were going to kneel.  

The administration being in conversation with students was good because the students would be supported and prepared to overcome the negative repercussions if there were any due to the protests. However, this call was disappointing as Dr. Robinson did not get full notice or enough time to prepare the students. On the other side of the story, student Jailyn Mason and many of her teammates were in conversation for quite some time and had decided to kneel. Dr. Robinson's words had made it to the team. The athletic director and the coaches had asked the players if they wanted to kneel. After being asked if the players wanted to kneel, 6 players from the women's basketball team decided they wanted to kneel. The woman kneeled, played the game, and even won 79-32. However, their lives changed due to what happened afterwards. After the game there was a press conference which asked the students all types of questions as to why they kneeled, some even slightly badgering.

The society, the community, and the rhetoric that these students faced has not changed it seems. Out of six players only one or two players remain at the University of Arkansa. The other players have left or quit the team for reasons that are medical, or some not even known. This is a big lesson that shows that even though we have come a long way in supporting our students as they voice their concerns, there are issues we still need to address. After this protest the women basketball students started an initiative called Project Unify to bring together the people from law enforcement and community to create a better relationship between the two. But the students were so shaken from the pushback from the protest and academic responsibilities that they could not push forward with this project. It ended up becoming not what they wanted. Maybe it was a lack of proper communication within the students, maybe it was a lack of being young and not knowing how to proceed or not being intentional enough. No matter what it was, the one thing that is clear: these women students were extremely brave and spoke up about what they believed in.

We still have issues in our institutions and every student needs to know about these issues as they pass through the very same place where these women once kneeled. The Bud Walton Arena is not only a place where women and men's basketball games happen, but it is also the place where all the students at the University of Arkansas students walk after graduating. This event must not go untaught. The biggest lesson that we need to learn is although these women were not treated like the B.A.D players from 1973, we still have a long way to go when it comes to supporting minority students. Moreover, we also need to learn to respect others with different views and visions of the world and their communities. 

Smit Patel is a current honors senior, completing his Bachelor's of Science in Biomedical Engineering in May 2021. His research interests lie in cardiovascular aortic valve disease (CAVD) and multiple sclerosis. Currently, he is working as an undergraduate researcher in the Mechanobiology and Soft Materials Laboratory (MSML) led by Dr. Kartik Balachandran at the University of Arkansas. In MSML, Smit's work is focused on better understanding CAVD progression. In his free time, Smit loves to read intriguing books on medicine and productivity and hanging out with his friends. 

  1. Jones, Matt . VIDEO: 6 Arkansas women's basketball players kneel during national anthem, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, Inc.. November 3rd 2016. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  2. ArkansasOnline Staff and Wire Reports. Governor responds to Razorbacks kneeling during anthem; Long, Steinmetz back players; men's team stands, Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. November 4th 2016. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  3. Dover, Elicia . Members of women's Razorback basketball team protest national anthem, KATV. November 4th 2016. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  4. Lamb, Felton. BAD Succumbs to UAIC, University Libraries Digital Collections. April 6th 1973. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  5. Bader et al. , Steve. BAD Times: A Digital Collection of the Black Americans for Democracy Newspaper, University Libraries Digital Collections. April 4th 1971. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  6. demirel, evin. What Happened to the Kneeling Razorbacks?, the sports seer. November 19th 2016. Accessed November 30th 2020.
  7. Accessed November 30th 2020.
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