- Associated Press - Tuesday, November 8, 2016

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (AP) - Some Republican lawmakers are criticizing the University of Arkansas and six women’s basketball players who kneeled during the national anthem before an exhibition game, saying they would consider cutting the school’s budget over the issue.

Arkansas athletic director Jeff Long has said the university supported the players who kneeled on Nov. 3, and women’s basketball coach Jimmy Dykes said he spoke with the players about their plans ahead of time and offered his support. The protest came amid a nationwide trend of collegiate and professional athletes refusing to stand during the national anthem to protest police brutality against minorities.

Republican state Sen. Alan Clark and Reps. Kim Hammer and Laurie Rushing cited their concerns on social media. The lawmakers said they would decline to increase the university’s budget and might try to cut it by an amount equivalent to the women’s basketball program budget, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette reported (https://bit.ly/2fPn5GJ ).

The university’s athletic department said its athletic program is self-sustaining and doesn’t receive money from the state general fund.

Clark said his issue was not about the players’ protest, but with the school administration. He said the school is inconsistent with its free speech policy.

“Universities today are not known for being the biggest places for free speech,” Clark said. “We’ve got micro-aggressions, we’ve got opening your mouth for anything being considered hate speech.”

Democratic Rep. Greg Leding, whose district includes the university, said Clark’s talk of cutting any funding the women’s basketball team would violate Title IX, a federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in public schools.

“Cutting the university’s budget in response to the athletes exercising their First Amendment rights is ridiculous and irresponsible,” Leding said.

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Information from: Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, https://www.arkansasonline.com


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