Bob Holt is a reporter for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. A graduate of the University of Missouri, he is a member of the Football Writers Association of America, and a voter for the Heisman Trophy and AP Top 25 basketball poll. Holt has been awarded Arkansas Sportswriter of the Year twice.
UA women to stand for national anthem; players say they will engage community, not protest
Arkansas guard Jordan Danberry drives with the ball Wednesday, Oct. 12, 2016, in the basketball practice facility on the university campus in Fayetteville.
FAYETTEVILLE -- There will be no repeat of any members of the Arkansas women's basketball team kneeling during the national anthem before the Razorbacks' season opener Friday against Sam Houston State, Coach Jimmy Dykes and two players said Wednesday.
Jordan Danberry and Jailyn Mason, who were among six Razorbacks who knelt during the anthem at an exhibition game last Thursday night, said that instead of protesting before games the team is working on a community program called "Project Unify" to raise awareness and initiate dialogue on societal issues. They said they want to engage members of the community and law enforcement to strengthen mutual trust, respect and understanding.
"As I stated last week, we took a knee to bring awareness to the social injustice that we recognize in our society," said Danberry, a sophomore guard from Conway. "It was not our intention to disrespect the flag or the military.
"We have heard from many of our fans, and we want to repeat that we have great respect for our military and our veterans who have served our country."
Dykes said the coaching staff and players have talked several times since the exhibition game about how to move forward after the anthem protest.
"We had conversations with them after every practice," Dykes said. "Just bringing new variables to the table to discuss.
"It's really an encouragement to me to be 40 years older than most of them in that room and to see how they talk things out and work things out and engage with one another and respect one another ... and move on and stay as a team.
"They're very excited about Project Unify. They have put a ton of thought and effort already into it. They're still working out the details of it, but they are really, really determined to make a difference on this campus, make a difference in this community and make a difference in our state. Maybe make a difference in our country some day, and they have some very well-informed, educated, strong opinions on that."
Dykes said Mason, a freshman guard from Madison, Ohio, emailed him Saturday about an idea for a community project.
"We want to be a part of change in our society," Mason said. "My teammates and I will utilize the resources available to all students at the University of Arkansas and within our community to create a set of key topics that will initiate discussions to enhance understanding between the different members of our community.
"Topics may range from police policies to youth programs. Ultimately, we hope these discussions lead to a community event and hopefully change in our society."
Danberry and Mason read statements but didn't take questions from the media before going to practice.
Dykes answered some questions and reiterated his support for his team.
"Over the past week, I've watched personally a group of strong, beautiful young women support one another when their views and even methods of expression differed from one another," Dykes said. "I personally continue to learn the power that comes from listening is very, very important."
Friday's 10:30 a.m. game at Walton Arena is "Elementary Day." Arkansas spokesman Kevin Trainor said of the 21 schools that planned to have students in attendance only one -- which the UA declined to name -- informed the athletic department it would not participate.
"Hopefully, they may reconsider ... because there are a lot of young boys and girls that have never been to a college campus," Dykes said. "They have never been to a Razorback game. Maybe it's their only chance, and maybe we can inspire the heart of a young boy or a young girl to think, 'Maybe I can go to college. Maybe some day I can be a Razorback. Maybe some day I can play in the band.' "
Dykes, beginning his third season as the Arkansas coach, was asked whether he was relieved a resolution had been reached to the protest.
"It's absolutely been a distraction, but that's OK," he said. "Life is about distractions and how you handle distractions. How you grow from them and how you learn from them."
Dykes said the situation has made his players stronger women.
"They know how to handle adversity and distractions and disagreements and different viewpoints better than they did two weeks ago or five days ago," he said. "I've been very clear all along my personal stance on the national anthem. They know that. They knew that from day one when the discussion began.
"I guess what I'm most relieved at is the fact that 37 days later -- whatever it's been -- they still know how I personally stand, but how I stand behind them and support them."
ARKANSAS WOMEN VS. SAM HOUSTON STATE
WHEN 10:30 a.m. Friday
WHERE Walton Arena, Fayetteville 2015-2016
RECORDS Arkansas 12-19, Sam Houston State 13-19 (Season opener for both teams)
COACHES Jimmy Dykes (30-32 in third season at Arkansas and overall); Brenda Nichols (124-205 in 11th season at Sam Houston State, 256-353 in 22nd season overall)
INTERNET SEC Network Plus, ESPN3.com
Sports on 11/10/2016
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