by Sade Smith, News Editor
Since 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeled during the National Anthem, other NFL teams have taken part in the symbolic protest against police brutality and social injustices against Black Americans.
At this past Saturday’s UMass Dartmouth Football Homecoming game, players on the team kneeled or raised their helmets in coalition with Kaepernick. Senior Operations Management major and runningback Michael Slaughter was a part of this silent protest, donning a “Hands Up Don’t Shoot” T-shirt.
According to Slaughter, the idea originated with teammate and runningback Abbi Bamgbose, who started the demonstration at an away game at Mount Ida. Slaughter said, “I respected it. At our second home game, we started doing it together.”
As he reflected on his own experiences with police brutality, Slaughter said these demonstrations mean more to him. At the age of fourteen, the Springfield, MA native was on the way to an early morning football practice when his father, who was driving, and his thirteen-year-old brother were pulled over in what they thought was a routine traffic stop.
“I looked and we were surrounded by eight cop cars. Gun to the window, my dad asked why we were being detained,” Slaughter recounted. While asking the family to step out of their vehicle, Slaughter moved his phone and one of the cops threatened him saying, “Do anything stupid I will shoot you in the face.”
It was revealed that the police were tracking a house invasion where the suspects were Puerto Rican. Slaughter’s father is Black. The officers eventually let them go, as Slaughter’s father reminded him, “As a male of color, never have a record so they never have anything against you.”
After this incident, Slaughter has been careful to not have further run-ins with police officers as a Black man in America. With these silent protests, he believes that a change will occur in how social injustices are handled as well as the impact it will have on spectators.
With full support from the football team’s coaches, a few of these players will continue the demonstrations wearing custom made T-shirts by Business student Marius Johnson’s clothing brand called Eovove.
The demonstration has already trickled down to other on-campus athletic teams, including soccer and basketball, who plan to use their platform as a form of protest. Slaughter is reminded of his run-in with police and the officer who shook his hand to say, “Don’t let this ruin your day.”