KENT, Ohio (AP) — Kent State's players made their home opener memorable, and it had little to do with winning.
In a sign of unity they hope catches on, the Golden Flashes invited fans onto the court to stand with them during the national anthem before Wednesday night's game against Mississippi Valley State.
Moments before tip-off, Kent State's players went into the crowd and each of them asked a fan of a different race to join them while the school's ''Flasher Brass'' pep band performed the anthem.
“We understand all of the issues going on in our world,” sophomore point guard Jalen Avery said. “In these times, we felt it was important to show a sign of unity in our community. Our meaning behind it was to let everybody aware of all the things that are going on in our country know that we wanted to make a stand for unity. That was basically our symbol, and we wanted to treat everybody as one.”
Kent State coach Rob Senderoff said the players approached the coaching staff with the idea.
“It takes courage for our players to make a statement like this, and I believe it is a representation of the unity in our campus community,” Senderoff said. “There's a lot of people protesting the national anthem, or protesting the election, or religion. You see all of that nationally, and our guys wanted to make a statement. To me, it was a tremendously positive statement. Hopefully everybody can recognize that. I have a lot of African-American players on my team, and they have faced discrimination because of the color of their skin.”
“The statement they wanted to make was that ‘I am greater than that. I'm a person.’ We are all people, and we are going to try and bring some unity here on campus. I think they made a positive statement with what they did.”
One of those asked to join the players, was Kent State president Beverly Warren.
The team plans to continue to have fans on the court for every home game at the M.A.C. Center this season.
Kent State defeated Mississippi Valley State 93-63.