Oswego community shares viewpoints on protest

On a national level, kneeling protests in the NFL have divided countless people both politically and socially, and the debate has trickled down to small communities throughout the country.

Specific to Oswego State, there are countless diverse viewpoints from both students and professors about the recent protests.

Since the issue is deeply rooted in politics and media, campus veterans and media professionals alike have an array of opinions on kneeling.

Oswego State student Lawrence Paice, a six-year veteran of the U.S. Navy, has a very personal experience on the national anthem in the NFL.

“On the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, [the] Chargers were playing the Vikings while I was in San Diego,” Paice said. “They needed volunteers to parade the flag and stretch it across the field during the anthem, so me and about 10 of my buddies got the opportunity to do it. That was my first NFL game I ever went to, and it was probably one of the neatest things I had a chance to do while I was in the Navy.”

Paice, a native of Cato, New York, expressed negative feelings about protests in the NFL, saying there should be no room for protests in the workplace.

“Just like somebody acting in a movie, they should just do their part, do what they’re paid for,” Paice said. “As professional athletes, if they wanted to hold a press conference, go ahead. By all means. Until then, just shut up and play.”

Brian Moritz, a professor at Oswego State and former sports journalist at the Press & Sun-Bulletin, offered a perspective of how sports media handled the coverage on the topic and how he felt it should be handled on both a professional and local level.

“We’re not talking about the specific issues, we’re talking about the mode of protests,” Moritz said. “It becomes about who you agree with, not about the protest itself, and that’s kind of disappointing.”

Moritz defended the players’ right to protest in the workplace, citing a 2015 incident where a Kentucky court clerk exercised her political views to prevent gay marriage and was hailed a hero.

“She was protesting in the workplace,” Moritz said. “Is it okay for her to do it and not the NFL players?”

On a smaller local scale, Moritz changed his stance on whether athletes would be able to protest injustice due to past court rulings.

“At the high school level, the [Supreme] Court has ruled that schools have more power to punish speech that is disruptive to the stated learning process,” Moritz said.

When it comes to potential protests at Oswego State, Moritz said it is in the hands of the students to decide if and how they choose to protest because they are not strictly prohibited by law.

“At the college level, courts have generally allowed for more freedom of speech,” Moritz said. “Traditionally, the idea of a public institution is to spread knowledge and to talk about ideas, to protest.”

At Oswego State, there are hundreds of student athletes who have differing opinions on the protests and how they would handle it during the playing of the National Anthem before one of their competitions.

Senior Justin Hoagland is both an infielder for the Lakers baseball team and an active duty member of the National Guard.

“I think a lot of people in the military feel the way [NFL players] go about these protests is in the wrong light,” Hoagland said. “You shouldn’t be doing it during the national anthem because of what the national anthem stands for.”

Hoagland expressed that he knows each person has their right to a peaceful protest, but the Whitehall native does not agree with the way that it has unfolded.

“We don’t disagree with what they’re trying to do, just the way they’re going about it,” Hoagland said. “We all signed up to defend the constitution, so that’s their First Amendment right.”

As a member of the baseball team, Hoagland said if any of his teammates chose to kneel, there would not be any major backlash toward them in the clubhouse.

“It is their right to take that knee,” Hoagland said. “I think there would be some negative feedback from some of the guys, asking them what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. A lot of the guys would say ‘What do you need?’ but go about it in a different light.”

Photo: Lawrence Paice