Winston Jones II on Taking A Knee

Winston Jones II

Hometown: Valley Stream, New York

Year of Graduation: 2019

Major: Education and Psychology

 

Whether on the basketball court or walking around campus, Winston Jones II is a familiar, friendly face at St. Mike’s. Winston is a junior studying education and psychology, in hopes of “helping the next generation become conscious and powerful individuals.” Winston has recently gotten a lot of attention for his speech at the “Take a Knee Rally” on campus, where he compared the take a knee movement to kneeling for injured athletes during sports games.

As a college athlete you have a certain platform that most other people don’t, Winston has chosen to use his for a higher purpose. Throughout his life, his parents have been extremely supportive of his interest in activism. They made him socially aware and encouraged him to have discussions with them which later gave him the confidence to speak up and become an activist. Of his parents, Winston says “they couldn’t have been more proud of me using my voice and becoming my own person.” This confidence is what inspired Winston to create an open discussion with his team about taking action in the fight for social justice. Taking a knee is more than a physical stance, it is a way to bring light to issues that are often left in the shadows.

 

Q: What does ‘taking a knee’ mean to you?

A: For me, taking a knee means to realize that my fellow brothers and sisters are experiencing social injustices and inequality. By taking a knee it shows my respect for a fallen “soldier” and brings awareness to someone facing hardship.

Q: Why did you decide to take a knee at the UVM game on November 4?

A: I chose to take a knee at the UVM game because it was our first official game of the season so I knew there would be a big enough crowd watching us. I wanted to use my platform for a higher purpose. UVM is a big school with many supporters and I wanted my voice to be heard and recognized at this event where the anthem would be.

Q: Did your coaches/team plan to do this before the game or was it spontaneous?

A: This was a planned movement. Our team and coaches had an open dialogue about doing it and why we would do it.

Q: Were you apprehensive about taking a knee at all? Did you have any worries about the response you might get?

A: I wasn’t apprehensive at all actually before the event took place. I was sure of myself and sure that what I was doing would be impactful. I did expect some people to be angered or upset but I don’t think me or my teammates were expecting how monumental this event would be for not only our school community but the greater community of Vermont.  

Q: Were your coaches and teammates supportive of your decision or did they have concerns?

A: My coaches and teammates were extremely supportive of our decision. All three of our coaches knelt which made me feel secure and safe. They have earned my utmost respect and I will always cherish what they did. My teammates have earned a lot of respect as well for being brave enough and courageous enough to either kneel or stand together. It showed me that basketball is bigger than scoring points and winning games but also about the brotherhood that is developed.  

Q: At the UVM game you received some harsh words from the crowd, did this affect your feelings regarding taking a knee? Did it affect your attitude towards the game?

A: Once I knelt and heard the boos and harsh remarks, it made me that much more proud for taking a knee because it brought to people's attention the ignorance and hate that exists in this country. I was prepared for the negative feedback and held my head up proud for who I am and what I did. It didn’t really effect me in terms of making me apprehensive or scared but more so motivated me to continue my activist efforts.

Q: Will you continue to take a knee throughout the season?

A: I believe my team and I will continue to take a knee but no one feels forced to do anything. I really believe we did a great job of getting our message across and having the necessary conversations get started.

Q: When the crowd and other teams see you take a knee what do you want them to take away from it? What would you tell people who see this as disrespectful?

A: When others outside of our team see us take a knee I want them to realize it is not out of disrespect or to be rebellious. It is simply to start a discussion. To recognize the immoral acts that are happening to fellow American citizens like you and I. Both my grandfathers are veterans and have explained to me that taking a knee is recognizing that someone has been wronged and we must show a sign of solidarity for them. I think by explaining this perspective to people it’ll help them realize that this isn’t an act of disrespect but quite the opposite. People kneel in church all the time to pay respects to Jesus dying for our sins, so in a way I am paying my respects to those who have gone before me in the fight for justice.

Q: For people who aren’t on the court, what do you think is the best way to show your support for the athletes who are taking a knee and the cause in general?

A: I think for those who aren’t on the court, the best way to show support is to listen. I feel people tend to talk too much before trying to listen and understand one another. By just listening and keeping opinions to yourself, you are able to learn more and grow as a person.

Whether or not you support the Take a Knee Movement, it is important to be open-minded and willing to discuss these issues. Our society cannot heal if we are not willing to learn from each other. If we can learn how to peacefully and respectfully express ourselves we can start to collaborate for a better, more just world.

 

Images provided by Winston Jones II