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BVU cheerleader resigns, citing differences in protest practices

November 3, 2017 GMT

STORM LAKE, Iowa | A Buena Vista University cheerleader resigned from her squad on Sunday, indicating the idea of standing during the national anthem before football games had become problematic for her.

Alyssa Parker, a sophomore criminal justice and psychology major from Des Moines, joined nine cheerleaders in taking a knee during the national anthem prior to the Beavers’ football game against Luther College on Sept. 30 at J. Leslie Rollins Stadium in Storm Lake.

The silent protest mirrored an effort started by San Francisco quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who began sitting for, then kneeling during, the national anthem in 2016, his way of calling attention to racism and social injustices in the U.S.

The BVU cheerleaders joined a handful of Beavers football players in taking a knee on that Saturday, eight days after President Donald Trump weighed in on the matter, saying that owners of National Football League teams should fire a player who showed his protest by kneeling during the anthem.

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Dr. Joshua Merchant, president of Buena Vista University, initiated meetings with players and cheerleaders in the week that followed the protest. Merchant disclosed that BVU had come under scrutiny and that a level of tension had been experienced on campus.

Merchant followed those meetings with a statement detailing how BVU students, athletes and cheerleaders would stand for the national anthem as a unified team. He also left room for participants to kneel before the anthem if they so desired.

“As we all stand to honor our national anthem, I have promised to physically stand by their side as a demonstration of support for their desire to impact social change and I commend them for their courage,” Merchant wrote.

In resigning from the cheer squad, Parker said she couldn’t ignore her principles. “Standing for something I know personally isn’t right, isn’t something I feel should be forced upon me,” she wrote in a letter of resignation to her cheer coach, Whitney Miller. “I understand in life, at times when you’re an adult you have to do things you don’t like because someone in power said so, but that is not the same in this case.”

Parker said she joined two or three other cheerleaders across the street from the football stadium in Siebens Fieldhouse as the national anthem played prior to the BVU football game on Oct. 21. Parker said she was told that her option of staying inside the fieldhouse away from the football field, while the anthem played would not be acceptable on future game days.

Parker, who cheered last year for both the football and basketball teams, said she will no longer be a member of those cheer squads. She does plan to stay at BVU as a student.

“My personal strong beliefs on social injustice are my principles to my core, ignoring those and standing during the anthem is something that is problematic to for me,” Parker wrote. “I have to live with the choices I make, and look at myself in the mirror and know that I made the right choices for myself and what I believe in.

“I never thought in my years of cheering I’d have to stop for a years like this, but I can’t bring myself to ignore this strong issue that is arising,” she concluded.

President Merchant declined comment in the case, noting the university can’t comment on an individual student.