On his ESPN show Thursday, Keith Olbermann said Oregon men’s basketball coach Dana Altman just doesn’t get it as Altman criticized two of his players for doing the ‘Hands Up’ protest gesture prior to a game Sunday. Altman claimed that the venue and timing wasn’t right for the players to protest the grand jury decision in Michael Brown’s death. Brown was shot to death by former Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson on August 9th. Last month, a St. Louis County grand jury decided Wilson will not be charged with any crime over the shooting. Witnesses have claimed Brown had his hands up when he was shot. Protesters have since used the gesture, accompanied with the chant “Hands up, don’t shoot!”
During a segment on athletes, both collegiate and professional, protesting the deaths of Brown and Eric Garner, Olbermann singled out Altman for both his criticism of two of his players, Jordan Bell and Dwayne Benjamin, and his preventing the two from publicly commenting on the issue. Since Bell and Benjamin did the ‘Hands up’ gesture during the national anthem on Sunday, and then proceeded to frisk themselves in an obvious protest to ‘stop-and-frisk,’ Oregon has not allowed the players to speak to the press. However, Altman said the following to The Oregonian on Wednesday regarding the situation.
“I think every player has a right to express their opinion, however I didn’t think that was the time and place for it. On their own as individuals, they have that right. As part of our basketball team, when you put the Oregon jersey on, it’s a little different. So, I think there’s a time and place for everything. I don’t think that was the appropriate time.”
Olbermann pointed out that Altman was actually wrong in saying the players have to submit to the team’s demands once they put their jerseys on. The fact is that the players did their protest prior to the game, when they had their warm-ups on. Per the NCAA, warm-ups are any article of clothing that a player wears before the game starts and will be discarded prior to entering the game. Basically, players can wear “I Can’t Breathe” shirts or make a protest gesture before the game officially starts and they aren’t sullying the team and uniform.
Olbermann then went off on a tangent about college being the perfect place for protests and pointed out students have been protesting since this country was founded. He then highlighted the serious and sometimes violent nature of college protests in the 1960s and ’70s, reassuring viewers out there that the protests by college athletes are nowhere close to those, and unlikely to ever to get to that level.
Below is video of Olbermann’s segment, courtesy of ESPN: