SIU Athletics walks back policy change on activism in uniform

CARBONDALE, IL — The Southern Illinois University Athletics Department is walking back changes to its code of conduct that ban displays of activism by players while they’re in their Salukis uniforms.

Thursday, the athletics department said — in light of feedback it has gotten since the change was announced — it will not use the rule as it is currently written.

The department says it never intended to restrict student athletes’ freedom of speech. SIU Athletics says it will work with athletes to reword the policy ” into a positive values statement related to the focus and purpose of athletics.”

In full, the SIU Athletics statement about the decision reads:

“We have heard a great deal of feedback, both positive and negative, on the proposed addition to the SIU Student Athlete Handbook.  The purpose of the addition was to display unity and to provide a positive experience for our student-athletes and Saluki fans. However, some have interpreted the language to suggest that our aim was to restrict the free speech rights of our students. That was never our intent. We fully support the free expression of ideas and opinions among our students and the entire Saluki family. 

Given the community feedback, it appears that we somewhat missed the mark. We will revisit the language and do not plan to use it as currently written. Instead, we will work with our student-athletes to turn the language into a positive values statement related to the focus and purpose of athletics.  We are grateful to all of those who have reached out with constructive feedback. All input helps us to do our best.

The change to SIU’s athletic code of conduct was made after three cheerleaders knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality.