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Landry wants scholarships stripped from athletes absent during national anthem

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Landry wants scholarships stripped from athletes absent during national anthem

Apr 02, 2024 | 2:11 pm ET
By Piper Hutchinson
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Landry wants scholarships stripped from athletes absent during national anthem
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Aneesah Morrow #24 of the LSU Tigers over Hannah Stuelke #45 of the Iowa Hawkeyes during the first half in the Elite 8 round of the NCAA Women's Basketball Tournament at MVP Arena on April 01, 2024 in Albany, New York. (Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry has called on the state’s higher education boards to adopt policies that would strip scholarships from athletes not present for the national anthem at the start of a game. 

It is time that all college boards, including Regent [sic], put a policy in place that student athletes be present for the national anthem or risk their athletic scholarship! This is a matter of respect that all collegiate coaches should instill,” Landry posted on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter. 

I see some difficulties in trying to enforce something like that,” University of Louisiana System Board of Supervisors Chair Jimmy Clarke said, adding he understood Landry was trying to respect the anthem. 

When contacted for comment, Commissioner of Higher Education Kim Hunter Reed pointed out decisions about scholarships are made entirely at the campus level and that the Board of Regents plays no role.

A spokesperson from the LSU system  has not yet responded to requests for comment. 

Landry’s comments stem from a viral clip of the “Star-Spangled Banner” played before Monday’s LSU-Iowa women’s basketball game in the NCAA Tournament. It showed Iowa’s team on the court but not LSU. 

In a postgame news conference, LSU coach Kim Mulkey said it was not intentional. The Tigers, the defending women’s basketball national champions, lost to the Iowa Hawkeyes 94-87. 

“Honestly, I don’t even know when the anthem was played,” Mulkey told reporters. “We kind of have a routine where we are on the floor, then they come off at the 12-minute mark.” 

The clip was viewed millions of times on social media after it was shared by the far-right account Libs of TikTok, which posts derogatory comments about liberal and LGBTQ+ individuals.

Both LSU basketball teams and its football team remain in the locker room during a portion of pregame events that includes the national anthem, putting dozens of athletes at risk of losing their scholarships. 

Our basketball programs have not been on the court for the anthem for the last several seasons,” LSU athletics spokesperson Cody Worsham said in a statement. “Usually the anthem is played 12 minutes before the game when the team is in the locker room doing final preparations.” 

A similar situation occurred in 2017 when unnamed Louisiana legislators threatened LSU’s funding if players kneeled during the national anthem. Kneeling during the anthem at athletics events spurred a heated political debate after NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick did so in 2016 in protest of police brutality against Black people. 

The threat was withdrawn after then-LSU President F. King Alexander reminded lawmakers the football team remained in the locker room during the anthem, The Advocate reported

Similar protests have largely been absent from major college athletics programs. Many college athletics programs keep their athletes off the field or court during the anthem. 

Landry’s comments come just days after an ally in the Legislature introduced a bill that would give him further control over higher education. 

Senate Bill 403, by Sen. Mike Fesi, R-Houma, would give the governor the sole power to appoint the chairs of each of the state’s four higher education governing boards and the Commissioner of Higher Education. 

Presently, chairs of the four system boards are elected from among their members, which the governor primarily appoints. The Commissioner of Higher Education is hired by the Board of Regents, which oversees the four higher systems. 

Landry spokesperson Kate Kelly told The Advocate Landry is supporting the bill because  people in Louisiana want change in higher education.

“This legislation is not about trying to get rid of anyone,” Kelly said. “It’s about ensuring our universities are responsive to the people.”

If Landry could install allies as chair, it would be easier to convince the boards to adopt a scholarship-stripping policy as they set the agenda for board meetings.