Jasper Weatherby and Jacob Bernard-Docker Explain Why They Will Kneel Down For National Anthem At UND Season Open


So, they want to make it known: when the national anthem plays at Baxter Arena, Weatherby and Bernard-Docker will be on their knees to protest against the injustices and racial inequalities that exist in America and elsewhere in the world.
Their aim is to shed light on the issues, to encourage others to start or continue their learning processes, to open discussions and to invite people to join them in the anti-racist movement.

They also want to make their message clear in advance, so that others don’t try to distort it.

“We believe that racial injustices and the treatment of minorities and people of color in this country must end, and it must be improved across America and around the world,” Weatherby said. “For us, being able to have a platform in a place where there aren’t a lot of people of color in hockey or in Grand Forks is a really interesting position for us. It’s a great platform.

“At the end of the day, we want the UND to be a safe place. As athletes who have a platform, we stand alongside our brothers and sisters of color. ”

Weatherby and Bernard-Docker, who are both white, know this will make some people uncomfortable, and they’re okay with it.

“I think the change is uncomfortable for a lot of people,” Weatherby said. “If this (demo) is uncomfortable for you, it’s a great opportunity to educate yourself and look inside and ask yourself, ‘Why is this bothering me?’ and “Why is someone from my hometown doing this?” ”

“We hope the hockey community knows that we stand with people of color and that we don’t agree with the way people are treated in this country. ”

Weatherby and Bernard-Docker, junior classmates and roommates, lobbied for racial and social justice off the ice and raised awareness among their teammates as well.

They attended a Black Lives Matter march together in Grand Forks, with teammate Peter Thome, following the murder of George Floyd in custody in Minneapolis in May.

Weatherby and Bernard-Docker are both members of the UND Student-Athlete Inclusion and Diversity Group. They meet every other Sunday to discuss campus initiatives. Weatherby, who is also the National College Hockey Conference player representative in a college hockey diversity group, independently sent a list of recommendations to campus officials on how to make campus a more inclusive place.

Last month, UND hosted a team movie night where they watched a documentary about the death of George Floyd. They also watched a film that highlighted the systemic racism of blacks in the United States returning to slavery and progressing through segregation and redlining.

“For me and Jasper, it was an opportunity to educate our team,” Bernard-Docker said of movie night. “We try to learn more every day. We are not perfect. We still have a lot to learn. As our team is mostly white men, we have never had to deal with racial injustices. Just to open a few of our guys’ eyes and show them the story of the hundreds of years in America and around the world, the way minorities have been treated matters. It makes you realize how much we have it. ”

The UND hockey team is also working on an initiative to bring more people of color to UND hockey games once supporters are allowed to return to the arenas.

“Then the guys can show them around the facility,” Weatherby said. “We want to bring people together. ”

UND recently held a one-hour player-only meeting to discuss what they were going to do during the national anthem.

Other UND players are expected to lock down guns alongside Weatherby and Bernard-Docker. Those who stand next to them will put their hands on their shoulders to show solidarity.

“Everyone has their own values ​​and beliefs,” said UND captain Jordan Kawaguchi. “Regardless, we are still a team and we support each other. We want to make sure that everyone knows that there is no disrespect for anyone. We want to respect everyone. It is a sign of support for a certain cause and no disrespect for anyone. ”

Weatherby said the plan at the moment was to simply kneel down for a game.

“I’ve had a lot of conversations with my family members about this,” Weatherby said. “Everyone chooses to protest and use their voice in different ways. It is an action that seeks to spark conversation and change. For me, personally, I felt that kneeling once is going to bring more attention and positive change and conversation in the right direction. I’m not saying I won’t kneel down anymore, but for now Jacob and I plan to do so for the first game only. ”

‘A historic moment’

Kneeling for the anthem has become a common form of protest in the sport since quarterback Colin Kaepernick did so as a member of the San Francisco 49ers in 2016.

Kaepernick was originally seated on the bench during the anthem, but after speaking with Nate Boyer, a Green Beret, Kaepernick changed him by kneeling down in order to simultaneously show respect for the military and protest against the racial injustices in America.

Weatherby and Bernard-Docker, whose grandparents fought in wars overseas, want to make sure people know they have a deep respect for the military as well.

“I have the utmost respect for the military and the people who have served,” said Bernard-Docker. “I have no disrespect for the veterans. I have two grandfathers who fought in the world wars. They are dead now. But I have no doubt that they would support what I stand for, which is the right to be treated equally. The people fought. for our country so that citizens can have fundamental rights. This is what the soldiers fought for. ”

Weatherby said: “What they sacrificed themselves for is to allow us to make a statement peacefully. ”

Hymn displays have not been as common in the predominantly white hockey world.

In the NHL, five players knelt before the national anthem this summer: Ryan Reaves, Matt Dumba, Jason Dickinson, Tyler Seguin and Robin Lehner. Previously, JT Brown raised his fist during the anthem.

Four longtime college hockey writers interviewed by the Herald were unaware of any Division I male college hockey players kneeling during the national anthem.

UND history professor Eric Burin, who wrote the main essay and assembled the book “Protesting on a Bended Knee,” which documents athlete activism, centered around Kaepernick, said this particular protest was “a historic moment”.

“Imagine a star hockey player from the 1960s going to Selma to parade with Martin Luther King Jr. and others,” said Burin. “Well, in 1965 this player would probably have been despised and scolded for joining. At the time, most whites believed such protests were divisive and counterproductive.

Weatherby’s family knows this well.

Her grandmother, Ann Macrory, took part in the famous Selma march to Montgomery as a 25-year-old civil rights activist. She recalled that members of her family were yelled at by racist locals during the march.

Macrory, who became a pioneering civil rights lawyer, also stood at the National Mall watching King deliver his “I Have a Dream” speech and fought for things like equality in housing and the rights of immigrants during his career.

A family history of activism

Ann is just a prominent civil rights fighter in Weatherby’s family.

Weatherby’s grandfather Ralph Temple fled the Nazis as a 7-year-old Jewish boy growing up in London. In America he became a civil rights lawyer, who fought Jim Crow in the courtroom, worked under Thurgood Marshall at the Legal Defense Fund and alongside Martin Luther King Jr., on a few cases.

Her mother, Lucinda, raised in Washington, DC, protested apartheid at the South African embassy and successfully pressured her high school to disengage from any business with South African ties.

Weatherby was also deeply influenced by his adopted brother, Kevin, who is black and a descendant of the indigenous Bribri people in Costa Rica. Through DNA and ancestry research, they determined that Kevin is the descendant of an African slave from Nigeria, who was taken to Jamaica.

Bernard-Docker does not have that family history, but he said his parents played an important role in his formation as a person and his view of the world.

“For me, it’s just the way my parents raised me,” Bernard-Docker said. “I don’t have the same experience as Jasper. But one thing my parents always stressed is that you should treat everyone with respect. It doesn’t matter where they grew up or what their beliefs are.

“A few people have asked me, ‘Why are you going to kneel down? You are Canadian “. My answer is that it goes so much further than nationality. No matter where you are from or where you are from, our goal is to try to draw attention to how everyone should be treated equally. It is a fundamental human right that everyone deserves. ”

Knock at home

The UND campus has not been immune to problems of racism.

This summer, two volleyball players left the team after a video emerged of them singing lyrics to songs containing the “N” word. UND used one of the players on a promotional poster, drawing heavy criticism from UND star soccer player Jaxson Turner.

This fall, details came in light of the racism, bullying and assaults of UND hockey newcomer Mitchell Miller, as an eighth grade student of a black classmate with a developmental disability. After four days of public backlash, UND chairman Andrew Armacost removed Miller from the hockey team but said he could stay in school.

“Everyone realizes that what he did was not right,” said Bernard-Docker. “At the same time, what Jasper and I are trying to do is change people’s perspectives a bit. So hopefully Mitchell can realize what he did was wrong and correct it and move on.

Weatherby and Bernard-Docker hope their message resonates with the community.

“We’re not stars like a LeBron James or a Serena Williams,” Weatherby said. “We are walking the streets of Grand Forks. We pay rent like everyone else. We drive medium cars. For us, our hope is that we can start a conversation.

“It goes beyond being Canadian or American. It is deeper than nationality. No matter your origin, no matter your race, you have the right to be treated equally. It is the human right that we fight for and that we try to bring to light. ”


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