Recently, three Maryland volleyball players were reported to have taken a knee in Lincoln during the national anthem as a protest against police discrimination. Right from the start, the practice of kneeling or not standing for the national anthem has been a contentious issue.

After this latest incident, several Nebraska officials, including the coach, athletic director and an administrator, apologized. But why? Why is it OK for Maryland volleyball players to take a knee during the national anthem, but not OK for fans to express their displeasure by booing them or yelling to stand up?

Sure, there are other ways to express people’s opinions other than booing, but there are other ways to protest than to kneel or not stand during the national anthem. The Maryland players could have remained inside the locker room or chosen to use their platform in front of the media to express their political opinions.

When a person enters a political arena, there are bound to be many points of view. Booing was a few fans’ way of letting the players know they found the players’ actions disrespectful. It was peaceful. If booing is so horrendous, why don’t more coaches and administrators address it when other teams boo Nebraska, which almost always happens when Nebraska runs on the football field of an opponent. Why does only one side get to determine what is acceptable and when?

Even if someone says they aren’t disrespecting the military veterans who risked lives and died for the freedoms they have, there are many who disagree it isn’t disrespectful. Sure, there might be a few veterans that believe it is acceptable as a First Amendment right, but isn’t booing the same thing? And if people truly believe the majority of veterans aren’t offended, why don’t they ask them? Go to American Legion halls or a veterans home and ask them. Free speech should be for all.

It was disappointing that some Nebraska fans booed. But it also is disappointing that people would choose to make the playing of the Star Spangled Banner a political statement and not expect the other side to have a chance to respond.

One sportswriter even wrote, “A small group of Nebraska fans alienating a large portion of student-athletes at the school with divisive behavior that is harmful to the university and the athletic department. If you have a problem with the rights of people to express themselves, don’t go to the games.”

Really? Do we truly want to risk telling fans not to go to games if they don’t like it? Many fans are probably willing to take the writer up on that dare. Can Nebraska afford to lose fans?

If athletes are going to make sports about politics, expect fans to react with their own political statements or worse — walk out and never return. Weren’t sports better when the business of promoting politics wasn’t part of the contest?

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