MONTGOMERY, W.Va (WSAZ) -- Three team members on West Virginia University's Institute of Technology Women's Volleyball team took a stand in support of the San Francisco 49ers' Colin Kaepernick and his protest, choosing not to stand for the national anthem, citing unjust treatment some minorities receive in America.
Senior, Keyonna Morrow and freshmen Jade Berry and Roytihala Brown say they have received a lot of support over the last day but a lot of backlash as well.
The three volleyball players decided to take a stand by taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem before their Wednesday match against Emory and Henry College. The team lost the match in the fifth set.
The three say their coach was more concerned with the game than their actions during the national anthem. On a phone call with WSAZ, interim head coach Paul Sutherland says he supports and stands by his three team members who chose to kneel during the anthem.
Growing up in the 1960s, Sutherland says he came of age during a time of intense racial tension and protests and that the young women taking a knee during the national anthem paled in comparison to protests he witnessed during the Civil Rights era.
Morrow says she understands that a lot of people disagree with their decision, but she hopes they are listening to the reasoning behind their method.
"You don't have to like it, but I ask that you respect it," she says.
Morrow and Berry both have family who have and are currently serving in the military. Morrow says her father, three uncles, a brother and sister are all members of the military and many of them are supporting her.
"I am a military family person. My dad was in the military, three of my uncles were in the military, my brother is in Japan in the military right now. My sister is currently in the army, so you can't come at me with that, because it's not about us saying screw America," says Morrow. My dad told me "I applaud you and your teammates for standing up for what you believe in."
Hundreds weighed in on social media on our WSAZ Facebook page. Some supported the young athlete while others called their actions "disrespectful," "shameful," and called for them to be benched or even expeled.
The Women's Volleyball coach, Sutherland, says he would never bench the women for upholding a constitutional right.
He hopes to further the conversation with the young women and even talk to the entire team.