Public opinion split over Nebraska anthem protest

Public reaction to three Nebraska players kneeling in protest during the national anthem was divided, based on emails sent to a pair of top school officials. The emails were first obtained by SB Nation and were reported Wednesday by the Omaha World-Herald.

The majority of some 150 emails to Hank Bounds, president of the University of Nebraska system, supported the players' right to protest. But most of the 50 or so messages sent to Nebraska chancellor Ronnie Green cast the actions in a negative light.

Cornhuskers players Michael Rose-Ivey, Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal kneeled during the national anthem before the Sept. 24 game at Northwestern. Several other players throughout college football have performed similar protests during the anthem this season.

Nebraska regent and former Omaha mayor Hal Daub was one of the loudest critics of the protest. Daub emailed Bounds shortly after the game and asked for the players' names and their scholarship status.

"This could have legs in this conservative state," Daub wrote in his email to Bounds. Daub later wrote: "I will have more to say about this in the future if this fringe conduct continues to be condoned. Hank, small occurrences can get out of control. I am deeply concerned. And I am embarrassed."

Bounds has said he "completely opposes" punishing the players or limiting their ability to express their opinions. Nebraska football coach Mike Riley has also said he will stand by the players and their right to protest.

Some Nebraska fans, including Lincoln lawyer Earl Scudder, supported the players.

"Bravo!" he wrote to Green. "I'm not certain whether my law school classmate, Hal Daub, passed Constitutional Law, but, if he did, he's forgotten what he learned."

But others, like Bill and Evonne Williams, saw it differently. They forwarded an email from a woman whose husband died while serving in Afghanistan.

"Easy for some to wave the freedom of speech flag" the Williamses wrote, "but the pain caused Gold Star family members by their actions needs to be considered as well."

After the protest, Rose-Ivey said he had gotten an "enormous amount" of racially charged hate messages, something, he said, the players "didn't expect." He said some of the messages used the "n" word and "some said we deserved to be lynched or shot."

Even Pete Ricketts, the governor of Nebraska weighed in, calling the protest "disgraceful and disrespectful." That prompted Rose-Ivey tweet at Ricketts, asking for the chance to sit down and discuss the issue. Ricketts responded, saying "we will get something set up right away!"