Georgia basketball coach Mark Fox used to coach at Nevada, when he got to know a backup quarterback on that school’s football team named Colin Kaepernick.
So over the past year, as the Kaepernick story unfolded, reaching a crescendo this past weekend, Fox has been paying attention.
“It’s been interesting. Because I knew Colin before he was even a starting college quarterback,” Fox said. “And so I’ve kept my eye on it, and obviously it’s become a very national story. And obviously we all want our country to be better. We want our country to be better. So there’s a lot of ways to do it. But it certainly has become a lightning rod.”
Kaepernick’s refusal to stand for the national anthem last year, seeking to protest police mistreatment, among other things, became a national story. While he’s now unsigned, other NFL players eventually followed his lead, and then when President Donald Trump ripped into them last Friday night, it led to even more players taking a knee for the anthem. How every team handled it became closely watched.
That wasn’t really an issue in college football, however. Most teams, including Georgia and those in the SEC, are in the locker room for the national anthem, as Bulldogs coach Kirby Smart pointed out when asked about it Monday.
“Yeah, with our team we have a leadership committee that we formed and we meet with them regularly. It's a topic that comes up,” Smart said. “Came up last year. We talked to them about it. Haven't talked to them about it much this year. We let those guys bring it up and talk about things when they need to and address it as a team, but that's not one that's come up regularly. Of course, we're not out there during the national anthem anyway.”
But in basketball it could be an issue, as teams are present for the national anthem. Fox and his players plan to discuss the issue at some point between now and the season.
“I’m sure we’ll have chances to talk with our team as we get closer to our season,” Fox said.
Georgia senior forward Yante Maten said he had “definitely noticed” the national controversy.
“I’m aware of it. Like everyone should be,” Maten said. “We haven’t collectively come as a team and talked about it, but coach Fox said we would.”
Asked if he had any strong feelings about it he’d like to share, Maten answered, “Probably not yet. When we talk about it as a team, then I would definitely would be able to share my insight about it.”