Jeff Landry, National Anthem, LSU

Jeff Landry Wants LSU Scholarships Revoked Over Missing National Anthem

Jeff Landry criticized the LSU women's basketball team and voiced his displeasure that they were not present for the national anthem and called for their scholarships to be revoked for missing it.

Louisiana Gov. Jeff Landry criticized the LSU women’s basketball team and voiced his displeasure that they were not present for the national anthem and called for their scholarships to be revoked for missing it.

However, according to a spokesperson for LSU, the governor’s suggestion goes against the practice of the Tigers and the Lady Tigers. 

Cody Worsham, an LSU athletics spokesperson, told the Louisiana Illuminator, “Our basketball programs have not been on the court for the anthem for the last several seasons. Usually, the anthem is played 12 minutes before the game when the team is in the locker room doing final preparations.”

LSU head women’s basketball coach Kim Mulkey echoed Worsham’s statement when she was made aware of the protest from Landry post-game.

“Honestly, I don’t even know when the anthem was played,” Mulkey said to reporters at the post-game press conference. “We kind of have a routine where we are on the floor, then they come off at the 12-minute mark.” 

The practice, according to the Illuminator, has its roots in the 2016 anthem protests originated by Colin Kaepernick. At the time, the threat of LSU’s football players potentially joining the protests spooked Louisiana legislators so badly that they threatened to pull funding for the university.

LSU’s president at the time, F. King Alexander, told the lawmakers that the players remained in the locker room while the anthem was played, thereby avoiding any potential protests. 

According to Sportico, imposing such a requirement on any college athlete would likely lead to a legal challenge. The First Amendment guarantees the right to free speech, which was further codified in the context of the education system by a 1943 Supreme Court decision.

In West Virginia State Board of Education v. Barnette, the Court ruled that students and teachers at public schools, which LSU is, are given the right not to salute the flag or say the Pledge of Allegiance. 

Landry’s comments are particularly ill-timed for the NCAA, which is in the middle of facing a reckoning over its century-long practice of cutting athletes out of compensation for their athletic labor. 

Landry’s fellow Republicans are against the idea of student-athletes forming a union, but Democrats have hinted that they would support a revenue-sharing model. During a hearing in March, California Democrat Rep. Mark DeSaulnier said unionization is the beginning of equity for college athletes. 

“Unionization or the opportunity for unionization is not the end but the beginning for an equitable system and treatment for people who frequently get the short end of the stick especially in a multi-billion industry.”

Mark Gaston Pierce, the executive director of the Workers Rights Institute at Georgetown Law, told Inside Higher Ed that the athletes deserve to receive their fair share, otherwise, it’s just slavery by another name. 

“We’re talking about sports being a job here,” Pierce said. “It’s a job because of the benefits it provides to these institutions as well as the NCAA. The ability to be able to reap those benefits equally—or at least significantly—by an athlete is necessary. Otherwise, we have slavery.”