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Northwestern’s players and staff will take the field with locked arms against Wisconsin, says Pat Fitzgerald

Fitz condemned the leadership in the White House and made it clear he would support his players if they decided to kneel during the national anthem at future home games.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports

Northwestern will take the field at Camp Randall Stadium on Saturday with its players, coaches, and staff locking arms, coach Pat Fitzgerald told the Chicago Tribune in a story published Tuesday night.

Following practice, Fitzgerald talked to the Tribune about a topic that has dominated discussion in the NFL recently, especially after President Donald Trump made remarks about players kneeling in peaceful protest during the national anthem, suggesting NFL owners “kick those SOBs off the field” and fire them.

From the story, which you should read in full:

"Football has every race, every religion, guys from all over the country … different shapes, different sizes, not only at this level but I watch my (sons) play and it's the same thing. It's a unifying force that, to me, has an opportunity to take the lead.

"I'm just really disappointed with the leadership that is being demonstrated. We need people in leadership roles to bring us together as a society, not to tear us apart."

Teams are rarely on the field at Camp Randall during the national anthem because it is played early, so no Northwestern players will be faced with the decision to kneel. Regarding walking out with arms linked, Fitzgerald said the players made the decision. Safety Kyle Queiro said they will do it to show "we're one unified group; we all believe in equality."

Regarding upcoming home games, Fitzgerald says he will support his players in whatever they decide.

Fitzgerald made it clear that his players reserve the right to express themselves in bolder fashion before Northwestern's next game, Oct. 7 against Penn State. The Wildcats do take the field for the national anthem at all home games. (Last year Nebraska players Michael Rose-Ivey, Mohamed Barry and DaiShon Neal knelt during the anthem.)

It’s something Queiro has considered, he said.

"It has definitely been on my conscience. And I'm probably not the only one. The only thing I worry about is that I don't want it to be a distraction. The pros and cons are something I will have to analyze on my own before deciding."

Both coach and player commented on the major backlash against NFL players kneeling.

Said Queiro: "It seems like the message is being overlooked. The protest is not about the national anthem and the flag. For example, Rosa Parks was not protesting the public transportation system; she was protesting America and the racial (inequality)."


Said Fitzgerald of what transpired Sunday in NFL stadiums: "I commend these guys for making a peaceful protest to injustice. When you really research and read about what is trying to be accomplished, I think it's getting lost by a lot of people...if you don't get what these gentlemen are trying to accomplish, then you're really not listening to the message."