DECATUR — After a team decision to stay in the locker room for Saturday’s game against Augustana, one Millikin football player stood on the sideline for the national anthem.

Connor Brewer, a offensive lineman from Rochester, stood alone on Millikin’s sidelines during the anthem, sprinting back to the locker room after it finished.

Millikin assistant athletic director Bryan Marshall said Brewer later told Millikin President Patrick White he felt compelled to stand for the anthem.

“He told him, he did what he felt like he needed to do,” Marshall said.

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Brewer was on the field for warmups with the rest of the Millikin football team, but stayed as the team went back to the locker room. Marshall said Brewer’s decision partly stemmed from a military background in his family, and Marshall said the university supports Brewer’s decision to stand.

Various attempts to contact Brewer were not successful. Marshall said Brewer told White he did not want to speak about his action.

Several football players were contacted, but had been asked by the coaching staff not to talk to media. A few made brief comments about the nearly week-long controversy before declining to say anything further.

“I really think it’s been a big misunderstanding,” lineman Travis Goveia said. “I think a lot of people are taking it the wrong way.”

“We’re one unit, we’re brothers, 100 percent,” wide receiver Gerald Perry added.

The decision to remain in the locker room, which was determined by a team vote, will likely be addressed again, Marshall said. Staying in the locker room has drawn the ire of alumni and others, many saying the actions are disrespectful to the flag while others are saying the athletes’ free speech is being stifled.

The decision came after a few Millikin football players took a knee during the anthem in the game against North Central on Sept. 24. Gritti then talked with the team about the best way to handle it moving forward, and the team consensus was to stay in the locker room, an action common with college football programs.

Millikin did not practice on Monday, an off day.

Brewer, a sophomore, is a starting lineman for the Big Blue.

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Editor’s Note: A previous story indicates staying in the locker room was a compromise instead of kneeling on the field.

DECATUR — The Millikin football team will again remain in the locker room until just before game time when the Big Blue takes on Augustana on Saturday at Frank M. Lindsay Field.

By doing that, the team will not be on the field for the national anthem — part of an agreement reached by the team after recent events.

“Our team came together and reached, hopefully, a conclusion that satisfied or at least can be respected by all parties,” Millikin football coach Dan Gritti said.

The decision followed the game at North Central on Sept. 24 when a handful of Millikin football players took a knee during the national anthem.

The players were following in the footsteps of NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers. Kaepernick sat down and then took a knee during the anthem for what he said was a silent protest to show support for minorities who were being oppressed in the United States and to take a stand against police brutality.

Since then, Kaepernick has been joined by players from the professional, collegiate and high school ranks.

Gritti said he did not see the players kneel at North Central but soon became aware of it and felt a dialogue was needed.

“I wanted to talk about it because I think of my role here as both a coach and an educator of young men,” Gritti said. “I wanted to make sure that everyone’s point of view was expressed and that everyone’s point of view was respected and that we stayed united and unified as a football team.”

Gritti is aware of the reaction to the players kneeling and to the choice to not be present for the anthem.

“We were sensitive to both sides of the issue and really felt it was important to try our best as a team to represent our beliefs, Millikin and the beliefs of people that might not agree with us but to take them into consideration as well,” he said.

The team first stayed in the locker room for the Oct. 1 homecoming game at Millikin and is expected to for the rest of the season.

Gritti said in a team statement sent through Millikin email that there will be time in the locker room to “engage in a moment of reflection to personally recognize the sacrifice of so many and renew our commitment to living up to those most important words: ‘with liberty and justice for all.'”

In the same statement, Millikin President Patrick White wrote: “The University supports the right of our students to voice their beliefs and support issues important to them; however, the impact of various responses received to this action caused many to lose sight of the critical issues facing our university and our nation.”

To assist with that, the university said it will begin a series of discussion opportunities on “uncomfortable conversations.”

(c)2016 the Herald & Review (Decatur, Ill.)

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