When Kelli Hayes got her UCLA teammates to join anthem protest

Inspired by Colin Kaepernick’s protest against racism by kneeling during USA’s national anthem, Kelli and her UCLA teammates showed their stance against discrimination by linking hands during the anthem.

Kelli Hayes, who holds the citizenship of USA and Philippines, was inspired by Colin Kaepernick's protest and decided to do her bit to fight against racism.   -  K. Murali Kumar

When National Football League (NFL) player Colin Kaepernick protested racial discrimination in the United States of America by kneeling during the pre-game national anthem, it got Kelli Hayes thinking.

Kelli, at the time a part of top American college basketball team UCLA Bruins, wanted to join the movement. As a person of mixed race – half-Black, half-Filipino – she had faced racism too.

So her UCLA teammates decided to support Kelli’s view by linking hands during the national anthem. “The U.S. national anthem does not really exemplify what the people of America have become today. There is lot of racial disparity, and a lot of injustices. Linking arms, in lieu of putting our hands across our heart, is to show that I don't stand for what the government and what the society has become,” Kelli said here.

“The U.S. national anthem does not really exemplify what the people of America have become today. There is lot of racial disparity, and a lot of injustices. Linking arms, in lieu of putting our hands across our heart, is to show that I don't stand for what the government and what the society has become.”

There were some who interpreted the team’s stand as a slight to nationalistic pride. “There was some backlash, but when you do something respectfully to shine light on powerful issues, you can expect people to appreciate that,” she said.

After completing her UCLA stint, Kelli made another bold move, choosing to represent the Philippines national team instead of plying her trade in the USA. “Representing the USA — my country of birth – would have been great. But I'm happy to represent another country that is also a big part of me,” Kelli, a dual citizen, said.

The Philippines side, however, has had a tough time in this tournament, losing all three of its group matches. “We have worked hard, but the results have not gone our way. The goal now is avoid relegation and stay in Division-A,” the 23-year-old said.