Northwestern players to enter field with arms locked in show of unity

DURHAM, NC – SEPTEMBER 09: Head coach Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats talks with Jared McGee #41 following a targeting call and ejection on McGee during their game against the Duke Blue Devils at Wallace Wade Stadium on September 9, 2017 in Durham, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)

Northwestern football has a showing of unity planned for its game at Wisconsin on Saturday.

Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald told the Chicago Tribune his team and staff will take the field (after the national anthem per Wisconsin’s usual procedure) with their arms interlocked. It was a “decision the players made,” Fitzgerald said. Safety Kyle Queiro told the Tribune the display is to show the team is “one unified group.”

“We all believe in equality,” Queiro said.

From the Tribune:

Northwestern visits Wisconsin on Saturday, and the color guard is scheduled to play the national anthem at 10:55 a.m., 11 minutes before kickoff. Because of that time lag, teams rarely, if ever, appear on the Camp Randall Stadium field. The Badgers are slated to exit their locker room at 11:02, followed by Northwestern. Fitzgerald said the Wildcats, including coaches and staff, will take the field with arms locked following the Badgers.

The display comes after the widespread protests across the NFL on Sunday, many of which were sparked by President Trump’s comments calling out players who have kneeled during the anthem, saying they should be fired.

Fitzgerald, who discussed the issues with his team Monday, said he is “disappointed with the leadership that is being demonstrated.” Fitzgerald also said he would be OK if players chose to protest during the national anthem at the team’s next home game, Oct. 7 vs. Penn State.

“I fully support our guys,” he said.

From the Tribune:

Said Fitzgerald of what transpired Sunday in NFL stadiums: “I commend these guys for making a peaceful protest to injustice. When you really research and read about what is trying to be accomplished, I think it’s getting lost by a lot of people. Our guys said they had an open dialogue and want to support each other. They’re sad; they’re disappointed. Anyone involved in football or sports, if you don’t get what these gentlemen are trying to accomplish, then you’re really not listening to the message.”

As our Pat Forde noted earlier this week, most college teams remain in the locker room during the national anthem. It happens for a variety of reasons — pregame ceremonies, broadcast schedules, lack of NCAA requirements — but Northwestern is one of the schools that has teams on the field for the anthem. An NCAA spokesperson told The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach whether teams take the field for the anthem or not is an “aspect of gameday operation that the home school handles.”

Thusly, there were a handful of protests during the anthem last fall. A trio of Nebraska players took a knee while players from Michigan, Michigan State and Nevada all raised their fists.

Michael Rose-Ivey #15 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers kneels during the National Anthem before the match-up against the Iowa Hawkeyes, on November 25, 2016 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City, Iowa. (Photo by Matthew Holst/Getty Images)

It’s something — taking a knee — Queiro told the Tribune he has considered. He certainly isn’t the only one, but he plays for one of the few schools where the opportunity exists.

While Queiro and his teammates lock arms on Saturday (and potentially practice forms of protest at future home games), it remains to be seen if players at other schools protest in any way this upcoming Saturday.

Frankly, after the display in the NFL on Sunday, it’d be a surprise if there weren’t any.

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Sam Cooper is a writer for the Yahoo Sports blogs. Have a tip? Email him or follow him on Twitter!