The football teams from Old Dominion and Charlotte will form a "circle of unity" on the field before the national anthem is played at their Conference USA game Saturday night.
The circle of unity is an idea that Monarchs players came up with when they met with coaches to discuss how to respond to recent police shootings in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Charlotte, North Carolina, ODU coach Bobby Wilder said Friday.
"We were looking and seeing what was going on around the world, but more specifically in Tulsa and Charlotte, and we were trying to decide as a team how could we express ourselves in a way that would bring unity, and that was what the team came up with," Wilder told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.
Many Monarchs players wore Black Lives Matter T-shirts during warmups before ODU's home game against Texas-San Antonio last Saturday, and the team joined hands in a circle and raised their arms before the game.
"Last Saturday was the platform to launch what we see as a reaction to what's going on in our country, to do something to make a difference, and we're hoping more people will try to do something to make a difference instead of adding to the noise," Wilder said, referring to protests during the national anthem that started with San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick kneeling in protest to police shootings in the country.
Other NFL and college players have since joined Kaepernick in protesting during the anthem.
"We're hoping that this is something that, instead of a protest before the national anthem, that teams will consider doing before games to show unity. You look at a football team generally and it's a microcosm of society in terms of all the races and religions that are represented," Wilder said. "If we can take the lead and try to develop unity and get a better dialog going, that is what we would like to see happen."
Wilder said he called Charlotte coach Brad Lambert this week, and Lambert said his team would like to take part in the circle before the game at Jerry Richardson Stadium. The city was the site of several days of rioting and unrest in the aftermath of the fatal shooting of Keith Lamont Scott by police on Sept. 21.