Volleyball team faces adversity when taking a knee during the national anthem


Hayley Morgan

The volleyball team’s multiple year-long tradition of kneeling for the national anthem continues on despite the backlash from officials and the crowd during recent matches. “For me, I’m just protesting what’s going on in this country and the inequalities with race, gender, and stuff that I don’t think is right,” said junior and varsity player on the team, Marie Venberg.

Hayley Morgan, Staff Writer

As South’s volleyball team runs to the bench after finishing their warm-up before the Robinsdale Cooper match, they are pulled into a huddle by their head coach, Tori Tomlinson. Tomlinson tells the girls that they would all be red-carded by the head official if they chose to kneel during the national anthem. Kneeling for the national anthem is a South volleyball tradition, and this is the first game that they have been forced to kneel in the hallway instead of the main gym.

“We had just started warm-up and the head official came up to me and he said ‘Is anybody on your team planning on kneeling [for the anthem]?’ and I said, ‘Yes, probably the majority of our program,’ and he said, ‘I just want to let you know that if anybody chooses to kneel in the gym I will be issuing red-cards to every player that does.’ So we made the decision that instead of kneeling in the gym we would kneel in the hall,” said Tomlinson, explaining the situation.

The Varsity team kneels for the national anthem before every game and have recently faced more adversity from other schools and officials. “For me, I’m just protesting what’s going on in this country and the inequalities with race, gender, and stuff that I don’t think is right,” says Marie Venberg, a junior on varsity. “When you get into the suburban schools we’ve had a couple people yell at us and say ‘You’re disrespecting the flag,’ but we’re not. We’re just saying that there’s some things that we don’t necessarily agree with going on in the country right now,” explained Venberg.

In the past, the team has received some backlash from opposing teams, but never from the officials. “It’s never come from a referee before… I’ve definitely had people come up to me after a game and let me know that they’re displeased with that decision, we’ve definitely had a lot of pushback,” said Tomlinson. “In the moment it was hard to decide if I wanted to push back on that at all, whether or not that was going to be worth it, [and] what kind of statement that was going to make,” said Tomlinson as she explained her thought process regarding the official’s decision.

Although kneeling for the anthem has been a tradition for quite some time, it is completely an individual decision whether or not to participate. Every player decides on their own what they want to do, it is a decision coming from players and their desire to stand up for what they believe in. “We tell them all, whatever you want to do… as long as you have been mindful about it and you’ve thought about what that statement is actually making from your perspective, than you do whatever you want. I think that all of them have individual motivations. Some of them may have had personal experiences and some of them just want better in general, but that’s been a really individualized decision and motivation for everyone,” said Tomlinson.

While most players choose to kneel during the anthem, there are some that stand. “I stand because my dad was in the army and we stand for the good things of the United States. I’m not standing for the bad things that are happening,” said Olga Schierkolk, a sophomore on the team. “I understand when people kneel because of the things that have happened to them or what they believe in… I stand for different reasons than what they are kneeling for,” explained Schierkolk.

South is a much more liberal school then some of the opponents they face, many opposing teams have never seen another team protest in this way. While the city conference is mostly similar to South, some of the Suburban schools they play don’t exactly agree with South’s political views.  “We’re definitely a lot more liberal than the rest of the schools we play… because I haven’t seen any other school kneel. Most of the time they hold their hands to their hearts or hold hands with each other,” says Venberg. 

South’s political views differ from some of the other schools they play, and the girls are known for being from the ‘social justice school’. “I feel like we’re open to showing what we believe in more than other schools… I just think we’re fine with showing what we believe in,” says Schierkolk. Coach Tomlinson says, “I know for sure we’ve gone into other gyms where girls have never seen another team kneel or seen that experience at all so hopefully we’re making other teams think a little bit too.”