Alexis Brown, Black gymnast, kneels during national anthem
Alexis Brown, decorated UC Davis women’s gymnast, has been protesting the police brutality against black and brown people by taking a knee during the national anthem preceding meets. With this gesture, Brown is resisting the implications of our nation’s anthem, a song rooted in white supremacist institutions that allow law enforcement to systematically target and
execute black and brown bodies.
On Feb. 14, Brown was awarded the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) Gymnast of the Week honors for the second time this year and the third time in her overall career. In addition to copious other awards and distinctions, Brown’s performance at the Feb. 11 meet earned her a career-high score, tying the second all-time highest score in UC Davis history.
Accolades aside, Brown’s actions during the national anthem have garnered a disquieting lack of support from her coach and teammates and have resulted in harassment from fans. Brown also believes that judges at a recent meet discriminated against her because of her beliefs, according to a letter of support the ASUCD Office of Advocacy and Student Representation (OASR) released on Feb. 17, and later confirmed to The Aggie by Brown.
Kevin Blue, UC Davis athletics director, addressed that he, as well as the rest of the athletics program, are in full support of Brown and have been since she began her symbolic protest.
Brown’s narrative as a black athlete parallels the controversial story of Colin Kaepernick, a black quarterback for the San Francisco 49ers who similarly protested by refusing to stand during the national anthem before games in 2016-2017. Kaepernick’s reasoning was the same as Brown’s: How can he celebrate a country that structurally oppresses and murders people of his community and other communities of color?
Backlash for both Brown and Kaepernick’s acts of resistance spell out a grim reality in which Americans care more about the integrity of a non-sentient song than they do about the lives of black and brown people.
In a country in which over 250 black people were killed by law enforcement in 2016, the Editorial Board is in solidarity with Alexis Brown, Colin Kaepernick and all those in communities of color who are disproportionately targeted by police. Black students like Brown comprise a population on campus that barely reaches over 3 percent, and they — as well as other marginalized communities at UC Davis — deserve better.
The Editorial Board implores students and community to show their support for Brown by attending her upcoming meets at the ARC Pavilion, including one this Friday, March 10 at 7 p.m.